I love celebrating my children. I love celebrating friends on their special days. I think it matters when you celebrate a person. It matters when you know their favorite meal, their favorite TV show, their favorite song, their favorite dessert, etc. It matters when you take the time to let them know what you love about them, what you see in them, and why their presence on this Earth matters to you.

– Maria Shriver

About three years ago, I got invited to a very special event; a daughter wanted her mother to know just how much she was loved by so many. So for nearly four months prior to her mother’s landmark 70th birthday, she planned and plotted with a tiny group of tight lipped friends, on how best to celebrate her mother. She wanted it to be the party of all parties, because she didn’t know how long her mother had left. These days, anyone getting to 70 has really hit the jackpot, let’s face it. And if you recall that the Holy Bible tells us that our days on earth are threescore and ten (which is 70 years), then you know that everything after that is a huge gift. Particularly in Africa (and mostly in Nigeria), life expectancy is dismal. We tend to be on the most negative lists; highest infant mortality rate, highest maternal mortality rate, highest number of people with sickle cell disease, poverty capital of the world, highest number of children out of school, highest number of internally displaced persons… I don’t think I need to go on. So we know that every day we wake up and get out of bed is a blessing and hitting seventy is like I said, a jackpot.

As part of the tight lipped plotters, I had to help gather tributes from people to my friend’s mother. This was not difficult, her mother, before retirement, was Nigeria’s best Mathematics Teacher, awarded several times. She had spent her life working in various public schools and to her credit, she never left a single student behind. She had no failures in her class, an awesome achievement. The tributes poured in fast and thick. Reading through them, most from her former students, their parents and other teachers, I was awe struck at how much this wonderful woman had achieved in her 30-something year teaching career. Needless to say, the birthday was a huge success, the hall was packed, and my friend’s mother never knew what was going on until it happened, the perfect surprise party for an awesome teacher, Aunt, Mother and confidant. And best of all, she was so overwhelmed that she could hardly say anything except, “Thank you God!”, she had not, in all those years, even realized how many she had touched.

How do we celebrate the people we love? It is a question we should ask ourselves. Some celebrate a person when they are leaving a town or an establishment. In Nigeria, we usually call that a ‘send forth’ or ‘send off’. Some celebrate one on one’s birthday, but expect to be pampered and fussed over and get angry if they feel that enough was not done to make them the invitee, not the celebrant, feel special. Some people celebrate a person when they have died and are being buried; they will praise the deceased to the highest heavens and have the most superlative burial.  Some people celebrate people when they have attained a certain level of success, hoping to use them for their own selfish purposes, dumping them when they have lost that position. Hardly do we just celebrate people, even those we say we love, in a memorable way, a way that really celebrates them and what they stand for with no strings attached.

At Christmas, we get the chance to celebrate Jesus Christ our Saviour, for those of us who are Christians. It is a time we spend a fortune on travelling, new clothes, elaborate hair dos, house renovations, expensive presents, huge amounts of food and drink, elaborate parties and such other frivolities. And it is okay to let your hair down and enjoy yourself since it happens only once a year. I wonder though, if this is the way Jesus would like us to celebrate Him, because I fail to see how He benefits from our opulence and extravagance. Particularly, if come January, we find it difficult to pay our bills or have over indulged to the point of regret. Would a better way to celebrate Him not be to spend some of what we have with those who do not know where their next meal will come from? Or do we really need all those new things, when we could use part of that money for the many people around us that are hurting? In a bid to have a great time with our loved ones, could we possibly find something for someone who will not be having a good time?

Just like Maria Shriver says above, I love celebrating my children. I love celebrating my spouse, family and friends on their special days. I think it matters when you celebrate a person. It matters when you know their favourite meal, their favourite TV show, their favourite song, their favourite dessert, and so on. It matters when you take the time to let them know what you love about them, what you see in them, and why their presence on this Earth matters to you. It matters that you tell someone you love before they die and are being buried. It matters that we celebrate the people in our lives; our spouses, our children, our in-laws, our friends, our co-workers, our bosses, our Pastors/Priests/Imams and all who give us spiritual direction. It matters that we celebrate those who work at the lowliest jobs that we come across, it matters that we show that all humanity is worth celebrating, especially those who have no one to celebrate them. This Christmas, if you are Christian, celebrate Jesus Christ by doing what He says; “when I was hungry, you gave me food to eat, when I was thirsty, you gave me a drink, when I was naked you clothed me, when I was sick, you visited me…whenever you did it to the least, you did it for me…” That would be a great way to truly celebrate Christmas. I wish the world a truly meaningful and merry Christmas, may the peace, grace and love of Jesus Christ fill our hearts and homes, this year and beyond… Merry Christmas!

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