Dear People of God,

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:2).

The year 2020, no doubt, has been a challenging one for the global community. The COVID 19 escalated to a historical pandemic that has claimed the lives of so many people. Globally, as of 5:51 pm CET (Central European Time), 16 December 2020, there has been 72,196,732 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 1,630,521 deaths, reported to WHO. In Africa, there are 1,658,284 confirmed cases. In Gambia 3,786 confirmed cases and 123 deaths reported to WHO.

Sadly, fake news, particularly in social media, has been an aggressive ally and derogatory accomplice of this dreadful pandemic.  The Pandemic has negatively impacted the economic, social and emotional wellbeing of the global community. 

Beloved people of God, how do we celebrate Christmas in the midst of this ferocious threat?  In the midst of the pandemic, many other atrocities have been showing their ugly face in different parts of the globe. We can cite the following African political violence that has claimed the lives of tens of thousands and left many displaced and broken-hearted. The separatist militants in Cameroon, the Tigray conflict in Ethiopia, the political violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Somalia, South Sudan, Nigeria, the Central African Republic (CAR) and Libya. Recently the Boko haram abducted hundreds of Nigeria schoolboys. Thank God we got information that they have been rescued.

In recent weeks, the World Health organisation unveiled the good news about COVID 19 vaccines estimated to be 90% and 95% successful in the fight against the disease.  We thank God for the knowledge, wisdom and understanding He has given to diverse people in their various fields and continue to applaud the champions of the COVID 19 Vaccines, as well as the institutions advocating for and modelling peace in our global community.

However, even with this breakthrough, a wide range of the global populace are sceptical about the safety and security of the vaccines.  

How do we, therefore, celebrate Christmas under this environment that appears so bleak?  When most of our loved ones who would usually travel to celebrate the feast with their family are trapped in state restrictions and lockdown.

Beloved people of God, I implore you to take solace with these words of Jesus Christ to his disciples at a time of grief.  “In the world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16: 33)

This assurance of Jesus neatly interlinks into our theme for Christmas 2020.

“Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” Luke 2:14  

Friends, the separation between God and man as a result of Adam’s disobedience brought misery, sin and death to the human race, However, God in his love sent Christ as the sacrificial lamb to redeem his people and reconcile them with Him. It is therefore not surprising that the Angels revealed his birth as, God bringing peace on earth and goodwill to all men. They, at first, glorified God the authour of Peace, implicitly emphasising that it was not man, but God that will bring about the peace.  Jesus himself confirmed this statement according to the Gospel of John chapter 14 verse 27 when he said to his disciples:

“Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”

Therefore, we implore you to look beyond the world for true peace, and embrace God in Christ the Authour of Peace.

People of God, as we celebrate Christmas during this challenging time, let us not allow ourselves to be distracted by the ills of COVID, but reflect on the sacrificial love of Christ and join the heavenly host to reinforce the message of Christ’s birth saying:

“Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” Luke 2:14

In order to benefit from the sacrificial love of Christ, we must believe and accept him as our personal saviour and we will receive eternal life. When we receive him, the Holy Spirit will indwell with us and our interests, thoughts and actions will align with God’s will. That is, to love God with all our heart, with all our mind, with all our soul and with all our strength; and to love our neighbour as ourselves.

Christ has given us a new commandment to love one another as he loved us.

Beloved in Christ, true love comes naturally when we have the Spirit of God ruling our lives. Notwithstanding, we can have a check list in the form of questions to see whether we are on course: 

§  Do we respect the dignity and rights of everyone irrespective of race, ethnicity, religion or social and economic status?

§  Are we patient, kind, joyous, and control our emotions in times of stress, particularly when we are provoked?

§  Do we abstain from hurting ourselves either through alcohol and drug abuse or through any other means?

§  Do we abstain from abusing any component of God’s creation?

§  Are we willing and able to forgive those who wrong us, dialoguing with them for reconciliation irrespective of the gravity of the trespass?

§  Are we sincere and just in our relationships and contracts with our employees or employers?

§  Do we do unto others as we expect all others to do unto us

§  Are we free from jealousy and hatred?

The moment we cannot answer affirmatively to any of these questions; we need to seek the face of God for His intervention in our lives.

We admirably applaud the remarkable resilience of the Government of the Gambia and its numerous partners in tackling the impact of COVID 19.  We encourage all to put away all those interests that separate us, and work together to fight the common enemies of our beloved nation, namely, COVID 19, poverty and hunger, corruption, injustice, human trafficking, child abuse, inequality, violence against women and girls.

Friends, as we celebrate this Christmas season, let us appreciate God for his mercy and miraculous deliverance of our nation from the pangs of COVID 19.  If the effect of the virus in our land had been harsher like many other nations, particularly the west, who would have lived to tell the story. Like the psalmist in Psalm 103 declared, let Gambia say,

“Bless the Lord, O my soul; And all that is within me, bless His holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, And forget not all His benefits:”

Beloved in Christ, the peace that our country enjoys, imperfect though it may seem, is great and worthy of God’s praise and thanks. Therefore, let us in one accord, work diligently to jealously safeguard this enviable asset.

Furthermore, in love, let us consider the plight of those who are in lockdown, the displaced, those in the war-torn areas, the sick, and the unemployed.

Let us reinforce the message of salvation, joining the heavenly host to share with all those we interact with,

“Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” Luke 2:14  

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; My colleague Bishops, our mission partners, our brothers and sisters in the Muslim fraternity, people of other faiths, and well-wishers, a Merry Christmas and a Prosperous New Year.