Published in The Fiji Times - Wednesday 23rd December, 2009
Many of us are approaching the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ in different ways. With the school holidays underway and a four-day weekend ahead, even those who are not of the Christian faith find Christmas as a time for families to come together.
Among those who consider themselves Christians, yet are not regular Church-goers, Christmas is one day when an effort is made to attend a church service.
Earlier this week I ventured into town to face the hordes of Christmas shoppers, looking for gifts and bargains. Yet this Christmas, in the light of Cyclone Mick last week, many are struggling just to get by, with the focus not on luxuries or toys but on food and essentials, in the back of everyone's minds lies the new year and the necessary school fees, books and uniforms for children.
Away from the specials and the glitz, the material face of Christmas, there is a message of the greatest gift of all, the gift of love. For Christians, we celebrate the gift of God's love for humankind with the incarnation of the Word of God, Jesus the Christ.
Perhaps as we find ourselves struggling to celebrate in a manner we are used to, we can find strength that the Son of God, entered this world as a fragile baby, born into poverty and within days of His birth became a persecuted refugee.
As we meet our friends, relatives, workmates and acquaintances we wish them a "Merry Christmas". In fact we are doing much more than just wishing them season's greetings. We are bestowing on them a blessing of joy and peace. This blessing is described by the great Satchmo, Louis Armstrong in the song "What a Wonderful World": I see friends walking by, saying "How do you do?" They're really saying, "I love you."
In all that this country has been through in the past 39 years of independence, the one thing that has held it together, when the forces that divide have tried their best to conquer, has been that love has overcome fear.
One evening this week as I caught up with some old and dear friends, the talanoa (discussion) for some time focussed on the two major forces in this world, love and fear. Anger, hate, jealousy, suspicion all stem from fear and can only be dispelled by love. The Greek term agape used by many Christians refers to an unconditional love.
When we share our love with each other, we dispel all the fear that gets in the way of us living together in harmony. When we love each other as human beings and brothers and sisters, fellow children of this land, we bind ourselves together with an unbreakable bond.
On Monday evening members of the Dudley Methodist Church visited Mahaffy Girls Home in Suva to spread some Christmas cheer by singing carols. The home is just off Domain Rd yet not as well known as Dilkusha or St. Christopher's homes. It was truly wonderful to see the faces of the young women, who are given shelter there, light up as we sang messages of hope and love.
On Tuesday morning, I joined some of the team of Operation Christmas Child - Samaritan's Purse to deliver Christmas presents to the children living in the Nanuku squatter settlement in Vatuwaqa.
This year just over 270 gifts, in shoeboxes packed by children of New Zealand - which included something to play with, something to wear, books, toiletries and stationery, brought smiles to the faces of the children who would otherwise not have received anything for Christmas.
In this poverty stricken area, where most of the things we take for granted are precious commodities, the acts of love by children far away, for children they may quite possibly never meet, was overwhelming. 10 year old Prashneel, jumped for joy when he opened his "shoebox" to find among the items, a hat, which was his Christmas prayer come true.
This Christmas, there is one gift that costs nothing to give. It is a gift that increases each time you transfer it to someone else.
It is something that we all yearn for and yet we all have in abundance. It is a gift of positivity. It is the most powerful gift you can ever give. It is love.
This Christmas my gift to you and for you to share is for you to know that you are loved. Christmas is celebrating the gift of God, in whose image we are all equally made and who loved us so much that he sent his Son to die for our sins and give us hope, not just in eternal life, but hope in each other. Each small act of kindness and friendliness brings us as nation and as humanity closer together and to the planet we inhabit.
If you are looking for somewhere to celebrate the birth of the Christ, you are welcome to join us at Dudley Church (corner of Amy St, and Toorak Rd) on Christmas Day at 9am.
May your Christmas be blessed with love, light, peace and joy.
* This article is the opinion of Reverend James Bhagwan and does not necessarily represent the views of the Methodist Church in Fiji and Rotuma, any other organisation or institution Rev. Bhagwan is affiliated with or this newspaper. Visit the Blog- http://thejournalofaspiritualwonderer.blogspot.com/ or email padrejamesgmail.com