Many years ago I made a conscious decision to stop getting all caught up in the humanistic, materialistic, gift buying madness of Christmas. I decided instead to make the effort to devote this time to more spiritual pursuits and to appreciate the time I spend with my family. I remember those dark periods when I would put myself in debt to buy presents for friends and family and then go through a stressful few months as I paid off my credit cards! My spiritual focus at this time of year is therefore devoted to the celebration of the significance of the birth of Jesus Christ (regardless of whether December 25th is the actual birth of Christ, which is irrelevant to me).
I never took to participating in the African-American celebration of Kwanzaa, although I am a disciple of African, African-American, Black history and culture. Ideologically, socially and politically, my worldview is Afrocentric. What this means to me is that first and foremost I acknowledge that my ancestors were African, probably from West Africa, specifically the Kormance region of Ghana. Historically this was the region where African slaves were stolen and taken to Jamaica. Although I was not born on the African continent, I am of African descent, and this ties me with others who are African or of African descent throughout the world. I am unashamedly pro-Black and my primary concern is for the welfare of those of African descent, whether in the Motherland or in the Diaspora, before (not in spite of) anyone else. That said, I am also a devoted Christian and my relationship with God through Christ is the foundation of my being, even more so than my Afrocentric roots!
I read a discussion on the blog page of Cobb, called “Kwanzaa 2006: First Shots Fired”. The theme of the post and subsequent debate was his defense of Kwanzaa celebrations, especially against the opinions of African-American Christians. There is a site by Carlotta Morrow called: “The Truth About Kwanzaa” which gives her perspective as a Christian on the issue. I found the varying views intriguing and I recommend taking the time to peruse the discussions. (Cobb also has an excellent remake of a poem called: “Twas the Night before Kwanzaa“ check it out!). Even though I am a Christian, I have no problem with anyone celebrating Kwanzaa at this time of year. To be more specific, it doesn’t matters to me if someone decides to celebrate or not celebrate Christmas, or want to acknowledge some other religious observances or holy days (holidays) during this period. It is a personal choice. Although Kwanzaa holds no relevance to me, I do support the concept of “The Seven Principles of Kwanzaa”:
- Umoja (Unity): To strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation and race.
- Kujichagulia (Self-Determination): To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves and speak for ourselves.
- Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility): To build and maintain our community together and make our brothers’ and sisters’ problems our problems and to solve them together.
- Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics): To build and maintain our own stores, shops and other businesses and to profit from them together.
- Nia (Purpose): To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.
- Kuumba (Creativity): To do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.
- Imani (Faith): To believe with all our heart in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.
These are positive and progressive “Principles” that those of us of African descent should meditate on and incorprate into our lives. But these concepts in no way supercede or are even on par with the significance of Christmas. I will share the essence of the sermon I heard on Christmas Eve:
1. The Relevance of Christmas: God came to Earth: John 1: 1&14: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us…”
2. The Reason for Christmas: Christ came for our benefit: John 3:16: For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
3. The Result of Christmas: That we may know God: John 1:12: “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons (and daughters) of God, even to them that believe on his name.”
The time my family spends during this time together attending Christmas service, eating, drinking, laughing, telling stories and jokes, watching movies etc. is what makes this time special for us. Although we do exchange gifts, more like small tokens of affection, it is not the highlight of our day or the season. We are more inspired by the gift of salvation that the birth of Christ represents.
“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord”. Romans 6:23.