In a world where the essence of Christmas often gets misinterpreted, Rev. Thomas Ukwute, the General Overseer of Anchor of Hope Ministries, illuminated the true spirit of the season. This enlightening moment occurred on Sunday, December 17th, 2023, during a Christmas Carol Service meticulously organized by the Youth arm of the Church. Held at the Headquarters in Ugborikoko-Effurun, Uvwvie Local Government Area, Delta State, the event, known as ‘Shabach,’ echoed the essence of Christmas.
In his opening remark, Rev Ukwute said “There is an ongoing debate among people about the necessity of date and time when it comes to Christmas. However, I firmly believe that if we truly value the essence of Christmas, there’s no limit to what we can do to celebrate its significance. Every birthday carries a distinct personality, and the question arises: How much significance do we attribute to the person of Jesus, the King of Kings, and the Lord of Lords?
“Celebrating Christmas devoid of a relationship with Him renders the occasion meaningless. Yet, if our celebration is rooted in the fact that Jesus Christ is alive, has saved us, and has bestowed hope for tomorrow, then every act we perform will inherently glorify Him. This sentiment is echoed in Luke 2:6,7, 9-11, 13-15.
“The birth of Christ brought genuine joy and contentment into the world. In Christ, one can find peace – peace with God, with one another, within the family, and across the nation. Without this peace, any celebration holds no true value. Therefore, every action during Christmas, even the act of gift-giving, should carry the essence of the gospel. Its purpose is to convey what Jesus came to accomplish on earth; His birth allowed His blood to be shed for the salvation of mankind.
“If our celebration revolves around the Prince of Peace, then we must strive to maintain peace with one another. The essence of celebration should be the reverence we offer God for sending His Son to redeem us. However, the poignant reality surrounding Christ’s birth lies in the fact that there was no adequate space for His mother to give birth to Him. This is a lesson in humility. In celebrating Jesus, we must ask ourselves: Is there room in our lives for Him? The true essence of Christmas is to allow Jesus to illuminate our lives as a beacon of light. Until this is accomplished, every expenditure remains futile.
“God doesn’t seek our material offerings; He owns all the cattle on a thousand hills. What He desires from us is our hearts, our devotion, and a celebration infused with gratitude for His act of rescuing us.
Reverend Ukwute reflected on a poignant moment from his past, recalling a Christmas when he was drunk by consumming11 bottles of small Stout in an attempt to celebrate. It marked the final Christmas he observed while engulfed in a life of sin. However, after encountering Jesus and undergoing a profound transformation, he realized the depth of the darkness he had been living in. He emphasized that true meaning is infused into the celebration of Christmas when one recognizes their own despair and invites Jesus into their life. With a heartfelt question, he asked, “Do you have room for Him?”
Brother Sunny Badinwu, a Youth Leader in the Church, emphasized the focal point of the season, stating unequivocally that “Jesus is the reason for the season.” Reflecting on this year’s Carol Service, aptly titled “Shâbach – an evening of joyous melodies and festive cheer,” he drew inspiration from the Hebrew word of praise. He highlighted its meaning, which encompasses addressing with loud acclaim, glorifying, and declaring triumph. Badinwu stressed that while this term appears sparingly in the Old Testament, its impact is profound. He firmly believes that celebrating Jesus, who is the core of this season, is undeniably worth shouting about until the entire world is illuminated with the glory of the Lord, as the water covers the sea.
The festive evening resonated with an array of enchanting carol presentations, each segment captivating in its own right. The Red Carpet Session set the tone for the evening event. The Combined Choir, along with congregational renditions, showcased the joyous spirit of the season. From the delightful melodies of “Ding Dong” and the serene tones of “Oh Holy Night” to the jubilant refrains of “Deck The Hall” and the angelic voices singing “Hark The Herald Angels Sing,” the atmosphere was brimming with musical delight.
The younger ones added their sparkle, rendering heartfelt renditions of classics such as “The First Noel,” “Silent Night,” and the timeless hymn “Oh Come All Ye Faithful.” The entire gathering joined in jubilation, echoing the cheerful notes of “Joy To The World” and embracing the festive vibes of “Feliz Navidad.”
The experience was heightened by scripture readings, beautifully delivered by Deacon Cyril Ibekwe, Bro Jonathan Ukwute, Master Shawn Anirah, Deacon Iyeduala, Sister Vivian, Deacon Chimezie, and Sister Victoria Onioba, adding depth and resonance to the evening’s celebration.