About 30 per cent of the religious world is Christian. Uganda is very much Christian. More than 80 per cent of us are Christians of some stripe.
This Christmas, like Christmases past, Christians will be celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. They will also use the time to reflect on the meaning of being Christian. Or maybe they will not.
Many people are Christian in name only. Christmas, therefore, is party time. It is a commercial/entertainment event and less a religious or cultural one.
It helps still to go through the motions of observing Christmas as a religious celebration. This means, practically, saying some prayer. Attending church. More important, chewing on the teachings of Jesus Christ. This reflection need not happen during the Christmas sermon in church. It could happen there, but also it could happen on the way to church or on the way from church.
It could also happen in form of animated discussion over the Christmas meal or drink. There will be plenty to eat and drink, after all. And drink loosens up people’s heads and tongues to say some profound stuff or spew nonsense. Nonetheless, someone in the group will learn something.
How about just focusing on two areas of the Bible: The Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount. There is more than enough in these passages to keep the most argumentative people going the entire time between, let’s say, December 24 and 30.
What is doable in real life of the teachings contained in both sets of teachings? No adultery? No lust? No theft? It is easier to respect our parents, I suppose.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” Yes, up to a point. The refugees may have something to say on this.
“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.” You are the salt of the earth. Sounds really deep. Why didn’t Jesus refer to sugar or honey though?
Then there is its neighbour: “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds...”
Will you be the light of your village this Christmas season? And what does that even mean?
“If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.” Really!
“But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.”
This is a hard paper, but what wisdom is the son of God preaching here?
We are not done by a long stretch. “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”
You have heard this before. So much common sense. Be bold, people and step forth. There is so much profundity to work through.
But if all of this is complicated, focus the conversation on what The New York Times has called the “four parts of the biblical Christmas story: that an angel heralded the birth of Jesus; that it was a virgin birth; that wise men were guided to baby Jesus by a star; and that he was placed in a manger.”
You are spending time with loved ones. Make it count beyond arguing politics and gossiping about Auntie A, Brother B, Cousin C, or Uncle U. Or making plans to invest as a family, which plans everyone knows no one will follow through only to repeat the same a year later.
You see life is cyclical. Discuss that as well and test the philosopher in you. To you all: Merry Christmas. Or is it Happy holidays. See, something more to argue over like I hear the Americans are doing.
Bernard Tabaire is a media trainer and commentator on public affairs based in Kampala.