#National News

Christmas Message 2021  FROM  THE RT. REVEREND JAMES ALLEN YAW ODICO BISHOP OF THE ANGLICAN DIOCESE OF GAMBIA

Dec 28, 2021, 3:43 PM

Dear People of God,: At Christmastide, in The Gambia like many parts of the world, Christians and non-Christians alike are busy with preparation to celebrate the Feast of Christmas. However, the focus of the celebration varies.

It will be of utmost importance for us to dig deeper and identify what is expected to be the prime focus of Christmas as we reflect on the following text:

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14 NIV)

The opening verse of the Gospel of John reads, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (John 1:1). This verse draws our attention to the opening verse of the Bible, which introduces the creation story “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1 NIV)

Beloved viewers, listeners and readers: In the beginning, the Word was present with God at creation, and through Him, “all things were made” (John 1:3).

Everything that was made including man, God described as good. God gave man dominion over all creation and, above all, shared an intimate relationship with man until man’s disobedience towards Him brought separation.

Fellow Gambians and all God’s people, In the Garden of Eden, Adam and his spouse enjoyed a glorious life. However, God commanded that Adam and his wife Eve “may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and must not touch it, or will die.” (Genesis 3:2-3). Unfortunately, Satan the devil enticed them to disobey God by eating the forbidden fruit, and that intimacy between man and God ceased. However, this was not the end of man, “For just as through the disobedience of one person the many were made sinners, so through the obedience of one the many will be made righteous. The law entered in so that transgression might increase but, where sin increased, grace overflowed all the more” (Romans 5:19-20)

God in His love, gave His one and only Son, Jesus Christ, so that, everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. (John 3:16)

The epistle to the Hebrews further confirms, “In times past, God spoke in partial and various ways to our ancestors through the prophets; in these last days, he spoke to us through a son, whom he made heir of all things and through whom he created the universe,” (Hebrews 1:1-2)

Beloved in Christ, St. John the Evangelist, an apostle of Jesus Christ testifies, The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14 NIV)

Beloved people of the Diocese of Gambia and all who will have access to this message, the Feast of Christmas celebrates the coming of the Word, the incarnate God, into the world to save the world from the slavery of sin and death. John the Baptist testified of Him as the greater one, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. whose sandals he is not even worthy to untie. The one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire.

Friends, the focus of the Feast of Christmas should therefore be on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men.” (Titus 2:11)

Therefore, I implore you to make Jesus Christ central in your celebration and merriment this Christmas. Let us use the feast of Christmas to share the love of God in Christ Jesus.

As we celebrate Christmas, let us share God’s love with one another in a practical sense. Let us dig deeper into the areas of our intervention. Let us first examine our relationship with God and then our neighbour, to identify what we have done wrong, or what right thing we have failed to do in love.  This is not a time to dwell on how others have wronged you but to forgive and move on.  Take the first step to reconcile with a repentant heart, and God who has promised forgiveness of sin to those who forgive their trespassers, will surely forgive you too.

We cannot conclude this message without dealing with the enemy of our time, COVID 19. It has been a menace and deterrent to both local and global development. New waves of the pandemic keep knocking at our doors, the latest being the Omicron variant. Science has done much to combat the disease, yet it is proving stubborn. As we celebrate Christmas let us continue to follow and keep the heath guidelines, but above of all, let us seek the face of God to address this menace; for the incarnate God assures us of His faithfulness and compassionate love when He cited Isaiah, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.” (Luke 4:18-19 NAB)  

With God all things are possible. We therefore believe and pray that God will bring this pandemic to an end in Jesus’ name.

Beloved in Christ, this year’s Christmas appears at a time when we have just concluded the presidential elections and are preparing for the National Assembly, and Local Government elections. Like all elections, there may be issues that some parties may not be happy with; nonetheless, the beauty of our resolution brightens, when these concerns are challenged in a peaceful, just, and amicable manner by legal means. We believe that each political party aspires to make life better for The Gambia. However, what differs is the kind of strategy each political party intends to employ to attain such goal, which the electorates certainly have the power to determine through the ballot box. All political parties should therefore see each other as development partners and not rivals.

The relevance and quality of the political, economic, and social reforms proposed for our beloved nation is what we will evaluate:  the eradication of social injustice, the empowerment of women and youth, the strengthening of our governance, health and education systems, food security, disaster risk resilience, and national security.

Fellow Gambians and all God’s people, no matter the quality and relevance of the Government’s strategy much will not be achieved if every stake holder does not apply love in their duties and responsibilities. Each of us should give our best and selfless service to the nation. All Government institutions should be effective and efficient than even the private sector with the knowledge that their main objective is not profit but providing accessible quality goods and services that meet, and where possible exceed the needs and reasonable expectations of all stakeholders. Governance and security reforms should be enhanced to create enabling environment for competitive investment. Civil and state servants should be professional in their work; their clients should be able to access the right goods and service at the right quality, right place, right time and right price.

The Agriculture sector should be enhanced; possibly we need to learn from our Asian counterparts who were once struggling like us to grow what they eat but can now produce excess for export.

We appreciate the work that the government has been doing on road and other infrastructure. We appeal to the central government and area councils to improve on the rehabilitation of feeder roads. The unprecedented traffic jam in the greater Banjul Area is getting worse over time and if nothing is done productivity might be at risk. We appeal to commercial drivers to carryout their economic activities in the fear of God. It is sad when the normal minivans that usually transport people from Westfield to Brikama will sometimes charge D50. we call on the transport union and the relevant government institutions to intervene. For the people are crying.

As you celebrate Christmas, share the good news to all and sundry: The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14 NIV)

On behalf of the Anglican family in the Diocese of Gambia, I wish the Head of state, the Government and people of our beloved nation, The Gambia; our mission partners, well-wishers, our brothers and sisters in the Muslim fraternity and other faiths, a Merry Christmas.  

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