A certain couple was quarrelling over the name to be given to the baby in the womb day after day, when they were not yet sure of the safe delivery. The members of their inner family gathered to settle the dispute. The eldest among them chided them for quarrelling over the future. To pacify the husband and the expectant wife in question, the gathering peace-assembly chose a name for the expectant baby, which was Uchechukwu (Godswill). On the delivery day, the child was stillborn. Instead of rejoicing, the couple wept hopelessly. They regretted quarrelling over the baby's name when it was still developing in the womb. Could it be that the heated quarrel affected the baby in the womb and caused it to die at birth? Or was it God's will that the baby would die at the birth stool?
Before the Annunciation of the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, it has been prophesied in the Old Testament that the Saviour of the world would be born and his name was predicted. The passage reads, “Listen now House of David: are you not satisfied with trying human patience that you should try my God's patience too? The Lord will give you a sign in any case: It is this: the virgin is with child and will give birth to a son whom she will call Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:13 – 14). This quotation is echoed in the New Testament (Mtt. 1:23a). Emmanuel (Immanuel) means “God-is-with-us” (Mtt. 1:23b). Immanuel (im-man'yoo-uhl) is the Hebrew version while Emmanuel is the English equivalent.
An old illiterate woman asked her grandson in primary 4 to write a letter to her son under apprenticeship with a town's businessman living in Lagos. The boy was being maltreated seriously by the businessman and his wife. The sad news eventually reached the ears of the unlettered mother at home. She asked the grandson to tell her son in the letter in vernacular: “Nwa m nwoke Uchenna, anula m ka nna gi ukwu si echi gi onu n'ala. Ya bu, ma a gbagoro agbago ma a gbadara agbada, Uchenna lotawa!” The writer of the letter lacked sufficient words to translate some of the above Igbo expressions into English. So, he wrote: “My dear son Uchenna, I have heard about how your master smashes you mouth on the ground. Therefore, go up or go down, Uchenna come back!” Likewise, go up or go down Immanuel or Emmanuel means 'God is with us'! The feminine gender is Emmanuella.
Many Christian parents name their male child Emmanuel, especially if the child was born around the Yuletide. If the child is a baby girl, she is named Emmanuella. They want God to be with them as a family. No one wants the devil to be with him or her. During the alleged Apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Umunya in Anambra State, she was said to have appeared to a young female visionary known as Cynthia. Within the time of the alleged apparition (1998/1999), many parents blessed with female babies gave them the name 'Cynthia.' When the Vice President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan by chance emerged as the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria due to the death of President Umaru Yar'Adua, many parents decided to christen their babies 'Goodluck'. One of such parents came to my office at St Mark's Catholic Church Abagana to register for their infant's baptism. I asked them the name they wanted to give the baby boy. They said, “Goodluck.” I laughed and asserted amusedly, “Is it because Goodluck Ebele Jonathan by luck became the President of Nigeria? So, you want your child to have such luck.” I suggested to them to add Mary to the chosen name to become Goodluck-Mary. The father of the child refused blatantly to add the Mary. According to him, Mary has to do with bitterness or suffering and he does not want his son to suffer. That was why the old man Simeon told Mary at the presentation of the child Jesus in the temple that a sword would pierce her heart. “Father, I do not want any sword to pierce my heart or that of my wife. We have suffered enough. What we want now is good luck,” he concluded. We laughed and laughed. Finally I wrote down their choice to avoid much ado about nomenclature.
There was confusion in the choice of name when my lovely mother gave birth to me on 1st day of April 1963 at Jos Central Maternity Hospital in Plateau State. I came out of the womb on that foolish day laughing. I started crying when the midwife handled me roughly. My dad was overjoyed that a baby boy was born to him. My mum and my dad looked at each other happily. However, they were confused why I was born with laughter on April Fool's day. After meditating over it, they both agreed to give me the name 'Amaobichukwu' commonly abbreviated 'Amobi' which means 'No one-knows-the-mind-of-God'. At last God chose me to be his unworthy servant-priest according to the Order of Melchizedek. He also made me a Comedian, speaking in tongues – Igbo, English, Hausa and German. I don't mind if Latin is added. For now, I am learning the language of Heaven, which is called salvation. In the Book titled 'Julius Caesar', the orator Mark Anthony says, “I come to bury Caesar and not to praise him.” In this write-up, I come to praise My Beloved Emmanuel and not to praise myself. To God be the glory! To me shame!
Who is this beloved Emmanuel? He is no other person than he whom the Angel Gabriel announced about his birth to the Virgin Mary saying, “Mary, do not be afraid; you have won God's favour. Look! You are to conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you must name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David; he will rule over the House of Jacob forever and his reign will have no end” (Luke 1:30 – 33). When Emmanuel (Jesus Christ) was later born, the Angels of God sang this famous hymn: “Glory to God in the highest heaven and on earth peace to men of goodwill” (Luke 2:14). This peace brought by the birth of Emmanuel is only to dwell with those who have goodwill towards God and their fellow human beings. Have you goodwill or badwill? If you are struggling enough to do the will of God, despite human weaknesses, then you have goodwill. But if you are a hardened sinner, then you have badwill. If you love your fellow human beings, then you have goodwill. On the other hand, if hatred is your coat of arm, then you possess badwill. There is a factory where 'Goodwill bread' is manufactured. Suppose a wicked person purchases and eats a loaf of the Goodwill bread, can he or she automatically possess goodwill? Similarly, if a sinner eats St John's bread, can he or she be proclaimed a Saint instantly? If we love one another, the peace the Angel announced shall dwell with us. Emmanuel himself will come and be our Guest of Honour.
Every year Christians all over the world celebrate Christmas. Indeed it is a global feast. Christmas means the birth of the Saviour Jesus Christ. His other name is Emmanuel. Christmas is God coming to be with his redeemed sinful children. One with God is majority. If God is with us, who can be against us? If God is with us, how can we be against God? If we are against God, we are heading to destruction. If we are the children of God, how can we be against each other? If we are against each other, then things will fall apart and the center cannot hold. There was a notorious mad man in Aba in those days known as Area-Scatter. He was so fierce that nobody could neither pass his way nor arrest him. Ugly stories followed his footprint. He scattered whatever was in order. He brought untidiness where there was tidiness. Those human beings that he handled were either dead or wounded. On the contrary, Emmanuel brought peace and restored order at his birth. Why are we at war with one another that we attempt to scatter God's order of salvation?
The Incarnation took place so that we may be at peace with God and with one another in our families, kindred, groups, churches, communities, states, countries, etc. If we love Emmanuel, we ought to reconcile with those who are not at peace with us during this Christmas. My beloved Emmanuel, I implore you to touch the hearts of enemies that they may become friends. You were born and brought up at Bethlehem (Nazareth) and baptized at River Jordan. You started teaching the Rabbi in the temple in Jerusalem as a young boy. Your mother Mary and your foster father Joseph sought for you for three days. When they found you in the temple and questioned you on why you stayed behind, you answered them that you ought to be in your Father's house. Your public ministry took you around Jerusalem and Palestine. As we are preparing for the celebration of your Birthday this year 2017, the Israelites and the Palestinians are quarreling over the ownership of Jerusalem. Israel claims that Jerusalem is the Capital of Israel. The Palestinians also claim that it is their own Capital city. Also, North Korea and America are exchanging war of words with Nuclear weapons that can provoke Third World War. Here in Nigeria, Boko Haram terrorists and Fulani bloody herdsmen are threatening the lives of your innocent children. We need your divine intervention as the Senior Advocate of Heaven and Earth (SAHE).
Beloved Emmanuel, many of your followers here in Nigeria and all over the world are travelling to their ancestral homes to celebrate Christmas and New Year. Kindly be with them on the air, road and water. Let no mishaps come their ways. Please my dear Emmanuel, tell the Federal Government of Nigeria led by Buhari to commence work on the second Niger Bridge and to reconstruct the failed federal roads in the South East and South South of this country. Also, save your children from the hands of terrorists, armed robbers, Badoo, kidnappers and other agents of darkness parading here and there. Let the Operation Udoka (Supremacy of Peace) launched by Governor Willie Obiano to safeguard lives and properties before, during and after the Yuletide in Anambra State be extended to other States of the Federation called Nigeria. All criminals who answer Emmanuel as name should henceforth change the name to Satanuel. Emmanuel means God-is-with-us while Satanuel means Satan-is-with-us. We must make choice between the two. Action, they say, speaks louder than voice.
Beloved Emmanuel, you blessed our country Nigeria with rich human and natural resources, yet we are dying of hunger and hardship. Corruption or 'kwaruption' is trying to strangle us. By your divine power, may you arrest this corruption or 'kwaruption' wherever it is found and send it to hell fire so that all Nigerians can enjoy the abundant resources you endowed us. Our country is suffering from bad leadership, marginalization and injustice. Many Nigerians are calling for restructuring of the country so that everybody can belong. But the beneficiaries of the bad state of affairs in the country are saying no to the call for restructuring. Beloved Emmanuel, we appeal for your divine restructuring among us so that your children may live in peace and harmony before, during and after the Yuletide. With you as the Alpha and Omega, everything is possible. We also need spiritual restructuring so that we can live according to your divine dictates.
At this point, I heartily wish you all Merry Christmas and Fruitful New Year! If God permits, the Wit's Corner will continue in 2018. If not, the farewell is well made. Enjoy overdose of happiness!