Consider This | The real meaning of Christmas

 “Pray for peace, people everywhere!”

As 2018 rapidly approaches its final hours, the world and the nation of islands that we call home are cascading to closure in a torrent of turmoil and turbulence. A year that has been fraught with surprises, setbacks and challenges hastens to find its exit, hopeful that the New Year will generate greater opportunities for a better life.

Christmas is a season when many millions all over the world and many thousands here at home are intently preoccupied with exchanging gifts with loved ones, family, friends, business colleagues and acquaintances. Many others who cannot afford to participate in the generous gift-giving exercises that have become the hallmark of the season are discouraged and disappointed by their inability to do so.

Therefore, as we celebrate Christmas tomorrow, I would like for us to Consider this… What is the real meaning of Christmas?

A year of turmoil

When historians reflect on this outgoing year, 2018 will be remembered as a year that witnessed tremendous tensions, threats and turmoil in so many parts of the world.

In the United States, the political divisions that were sown during a vitriolic political campaign, and which resulted in a minority-elected president, deepened in its second year. Both Congressional Houses remained intractably and bitterly divided, and a United States Supreme Court seat was filled after one of the most contentious and controversial confirmation sessions in recent memory.

Europe was marked by ongoing strain between the left and the right, while Brexit continued to preoccupy the United Kingdom, with continued confusion, political infighting and a challenge to Prime Minister Theresa May’s ability to lead.

Here at home, Bahamian citizens and residents witnessed an enormous increase — 60 percent — in value-added taxes; a further, and perhaps potentially fatal, attack on our financial services sector by the European Union and the OECD; monumental mistakes and misguided missteps by a government that has yet to convince its citizens that it has a plan for the future of the country and increasing challenges for Bahamians to make ends meet in a world where it is becoming exceedingly more difficult to do so.

And for all of these reasons, it is very difficult for many Bahamians to capture the ‘Christmas spirit’. But perhaps we should reflect more deeply on the promise and meaning of the season.

The promise of Christmas

Immediately following man’s fall from grace in Eden, the Bible tells us that God promptly set in motion a plan for man’s redemption and reconciliation. The Genesis account reminds us that Adam and Eve disobeyed God’s admonition not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, having been deceived into doing so by Satan.

Genesis 3:15 is commonly called the “Protevangelium” — a term that essentially signifies the idea of “first gospel proclamation”. It states: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your descendants and her descendant. He will crush your head and you will bruise his heel.”

Therefore, at the moment of man’s fall from grace, God promised Satan that he would send a savior, (Eve’s “descendant”), who Satan would bruise in “his heel”, but who would ultimately triumph over Satan by mortally crushing his head.

This was God’s wonderful provision for man’s redemption and the first prophetic proclamation and promise of Christmas. The rest of the story is depicted in the Book of Revelation.

The real meaning of Christmas

Therefore, the real meaning of Christmas is not about the presents that we give or receive, notwithstanding the joy that such exchanges brings us. Rather, it is about the fulfillment of a promise made many thousands of years ago, that started in an idyllic paradise, but was disrupted by the original sins of arrogance, vanity, ingratitude and, above all, disobedience.

As we celebrate the birth of the Savior of the World, I would like to invite you to reflect on the lyrics of one of my favorite Christmas carols – “Do You Hear What I Hear?”:

“Said the night wind to the little lamb,

Do you see what I see?

Way up in the sky, little lamb,

Do you see what I see?

A star, a star, dancing in the night,

With a tail as big as a kite,

With a tail as big as a kite.

Said the little lamb to the shepherd boy,

Do you hear what I hear?

Ringing through the sky, shepherd boy,

Do you hear what I hear?

A song, a song, high above the trees,

With a voice as big as the sea,

With a voice as big as the sea.

Said the shepherd boy to the mighty king,

Do you know what I know?

In your palace warm, mighty king,

Do you know what I know?

A child, a child shivers in the cold

Let us bring him silver and gold,

Let us bring him silver and gold.

Said the king to the people everywhere,

Listen to what I say,

Pray for peace, people everywhere!

Listen to what I say

The Child, the Child, sleeping in the night

He will bring us goodness and light,

He will bring us goodness and light.”

And so, as we celebrate Christmas this year, let us will follow the admonition of the carol to “Pray for peace, people everywhere!”

And as we consider this, I would like to wish the readers of this column a very merry, blessed, peaceful and happy Christmas, as we all pause for a moment and endeavor to find the true meaning of this very special day for each and every one of us.

• Philip C. Galanis is the managing partner of HLB Galanis and Co., Chartered Accountants, Forensic & Litigation Support Services. He served 15 years in Parliament. Please send your comments to pgalanis@gmail.com.

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