As long as Christmas is about Jesus, it cannot be reduced to secular hype

Chefs and guests mix ingredients during the Tamarind Tree Hotel Cake Mixing 2023 in Nairobi on October 19, 2023. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

If all you gain from Christmas is constipation, a hangover, peer-driven pleasures and a broken wallet, you’ll have wasted yet another Christmas. As long as Christmas is about God becoming man, it cannot be reduced to a chapati. As long as Christmas is about a remedy for the sin of the world, it can never be equated to the most expensive of spirits. If Christmas is about a virgin becoming pregnant, it cannot be ranked with a vacation even to the most exquisite of destinations. Jesus is a big deal and history continuously confirms so.

The church has failed in its creativity to assemble a universal symbolic experience to capture the mystery of the entry of its Lord into the world. While Easter is well encapsulated in the Last Supper, Christmas has no ritualistic weight, yet it is a high day on the Christian calendar. Church thinkers must wake up and get to work on this one.

Christmas connects better with the community than all other days in the church calendar. It is the easiest season for evangelism. Choirs are welcome to sing carols in malls and hospitals. Many secular entertainment outfits include spiritual Christmas music.

The marketplace full of shoppers screams “Jesus is good for business!” At the Christmas core of routines is gifting, a practice directly linked to the gift of Jesus to the world. The description of Christmas as “merry” points to the stirring of joy by good news of a Saviour.

Loved in weakness

We live in a very competitive world. Weaknesses are relegated to a private affair. The world recognizes you through your strength portfolio. People get easily fatigued with a person who is persistently needy. The quicker your recovery speed, the more friends you retain. Winning streaks are unsustainable, leading to stretches of loneliness and worthlessness even amongst high performers. The coming of Jesus reminds the lonely that their creator is present and cares, especially for the lonely stretches.

That Jesus enters our lives through the peak points of weakness tells of a friendship that a competitive world will not offer. Jesus does not come to attend our award ceremonies. He greets us as we wail in our rejection corridors. He enters our lives not through the golden gates but through our rusty stories. He shows up in our hideouts. In Christ we meet one who loves us not because we are strong, but because He is. This is one of the reasons why with all its secular hype, Christmas is best enjoyed from a sacred spoon.

What is the real issue?

Jesus disappointed many when He did not mount an army to oust the Romans and usher in the long-awaited reign of freedom. According to Jesus, the real captivity was not external but internal. Both the native Hebrews and the occupying Romans had a sin problem.

Sin was not just a people matter – it was a rulers issue too. Salvation was not in the external armies. It is first in the liberation of hearts before it is a galloping of horses. Jesus was and is the liberator and His was and is an inside-out approach.

Politicians are our country’s diagnosticians. That already sounds risky! They have proved over and over again that they are allies of lies. They give us complex formulas and mashed up narratives. They give kizungu mingi solutions, even blaming other nations for our plight. They do not want to be singled out as the problem. As Kenyans are weighed down by their own sin, they are simultaneously victims of the sins of their leaders. Wicked leaders only weaken the nation. Kenya is not short of bright minds. But there is a shortage of hearts willing to pay the price of becoming moral beacons for the nation. 

Family -friendly angel!

The entry of Jesus into the womb created a family crisis! Angel Gabriel had a delicate assignment to prevent a justified break up. Two opposing voices - Mary says “Let God’s will be done” while Joseph says “We are done!”  In the tension, Angel Gabriel could have chosen to stick with Mary alone since she was the centre point anyway. He could have released Joseph to seek a truly “nice” girl.

But Angel Gabriel’s mission was not only to announce a divine pregnancy. It was also to keep the Joseph-Mary family together. God calms the storm He stirs and did not want to “spoil” for Joseph.

It took the Holy Spirit for the child to enter the womb but the child in the womb needed a family to be born into. The mysterious act of a holy conception is linked to a natural process of nurturing by an earthly mother and father. This is a great affirmation of the place of the family in life.

Today’s culture is normalizing family separations of all kinds. This does not please God. With the divine conception made and not to be repeated, the assignment of holding families together keeps Angel Gabriel up and about. The issue is that the Marys and Josephs of this age reject Angel Gabriel’s voice and trust their own. So there was no room in the inn? I doubt. What if the Kenyan front desk attendant did not immediately recognise a politician asking for a room? The politician would do a reintroduction asking “Don’t you know who I am?” The attendant would look again, recognise the leader and apologise profusely.

The politician would be told “Wait there Sir”. A glass of juice would be put in his hand as he sinks into the lounge chair, waiting for the attendant’s return. Sure enough, the attendant is back in no time, “Sorry to keep you waiting. This way please.” A room had been found. But how? For power’s sake, someone was bumped off - bumped off to a manger. 

Joseph and Mary were not big names, but I wonder how many other pregnant women there were in the inn. The pregnancy was a big thing – big enough for the inn keeper to do a kind act and find a comfortable place. Not even the pregnancy would speak for Joseph and Mary. They did not “know people”.

But it was just a matter of time before the same inn would overflow with people coming to listen to the child born of the pregnancy he mishandled. I wonder how he felt when he realised he “bumped off” the Messiah. Now the name of Jesus was on everyone’s lips to the extent of giving the world a proverb, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem?”


Jesus was born as a homeless child but grew to become a home and a home-maker for many. Sound likes a “bottom-up” story safe for one critical aspect: the dwelling of Jesus was among people. He was a man of the people with people. Kenya’s bottom-up lacks the aspect of immanence. Politicians eat in kibandas only during the campaigns. They recede to their five-star routines after the win.

Our power-wielders do not live with the people. They leave the masses in their filth, retreat to their leafy suburbs then return to the people in the morning. This designed distance dilutes – even suffocates - the leaders’ care for the people.

They do not love the people and do not live with them. Their accumulation comes before the people’s liberation. Most have no tears for the people. Jesus started in the manger and did not leave the manger neighbourhood. Having loved them, he loved them to the end.

The Christmas story as a leadership story is a “mangernomics” story which hails leadership by immersion – loving and living with the people. There is love of a spoken kind. There is love of an acted kind. Jesus’ love for the people was the lived kind. It reflected in daily improvement of the community’s quality of life, “…the blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor”.

For a leader, proximity – physical and emotional – has a great impact on the betterment of the people. So God became man – to live among us.