By Pat Amobi Chukwuma
My tongue nearly disengaged from my mouth as I was laughing to the highest degree. Tears were gushing out from my eyes and running down from my cheeks to my toes. It was not clear whether I was laughing or crying. If you call it laughing-crying, you are not wrong. Can you guess what might have amused me to such an extent? Even my house dog started laughing with me in animalistic tone. Clear your eyes and give me your ears. Do not be afraid. I am not a cannibal but a wise fool specialized in wit. Come to my corner and hear the story.
Sometime this year 2018, the United Nations General Assembly held its 73rd Session in New York. The Nigerian President was there with his companions. When he was delivering his speech, one of the governors who accompanied him was captured by the media in a deep sleeping mood. He drew the attention of nearly all the attendants of the UN as he started snoring like a wounded pig. A security man in the UN hall rushed to the sleeping governor and shouted, “Mr. Man, stay awake and stop disturbing this World Assembly! We are here for real business and not for joking. Where do you come from?” The governor shamefully yawned and replied, “I am from Nigeria. My country is in trouble and I couldn't rest at home. The peaceful and cool atmosphere here induced me into sleeping and snoring. I am sorry. By the way what is my president saying over there?” The security man led the embattled governor out of the UN Assembly hall for a little keep-awake exercise.
At the end of the session on that day, the Nigerian contingents retired with the president at the Nigerian quarters. On the way, the president confronted the sleeping governor with this question: “My governor, why did you embarrass the whole world today by sleeping and snoring?” The governor apologetically replied, “Your Excellency, I am sorry for the global embarrassment. I must confess that the tensed and bloody atmosphere in Nigeria keeps one restless. I wish you could create a peaceful atmosphere in the country by good governance. The Change you promised during your electioneering campaign is experienced negatively. We need positive changes in our country. The 2019 general elections are fast approaching and we have not done enough to convince Nigerians that we are serious.” The President retorted, “Shut up! What do you mean? Are you not part and parcel of the Change Government? We are all responsible for the gross failure. Mind your tongue! Otherwise the EFCC may beam its searchlight on you and discover the virus of corruption living inside you.” The embattled governor fearfully exclaimed, “Your Excellency, I hereby withdraw my challenging statements. I remain loyal. The Change begins with me.”
Few months ago, a group of armed robbers broke into the premises of a popular supermarket at midnight. The night security man was drunk and fell into a deep slumber. He was even snoring loudly. The men of the underworld inserted him into a big sack and tied him on a mango tree standing at a strategic position inside the premises. The drunken security man continued sleeping and snoring inside the bag tied on the tree. The armed robbers went into the supermarket and stole huge sum of money and valuables they discovered. Also they drank to their satisfaction from the expensive bottles of wine displayed for sale. When their lorry was full with jewelries, they drove off, shooting sporadically into the air. Immediately they left, some policemen and sympathizers filled the supermarket premises to see things for themselves. The tied drunk security man in a sack was awake by then. He was shouting for help. As one of the policemen was untying him, he was panting for breath and vomiting. Immediately he was freed, he looked round and asked, “Where am I?” The Managing Director of the Supermarket looked at him angrily and said, “Idiot. Why did you get drunk and slept on duty? A security man is expected to stay awake. Anyway your appointment is hereby terminated.” The security man went home sorrowfully. Sleeping on duty cost him his hard-earned job. From that day, people started calling him Stay Awake.
At the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus Christ told his inner Apostles Peter, James and John, “My soul is sorrowful to the point of death. Wait here and stay awake with me” (Mtt. 26:38). After this Jesus Christ went a little further and was soaked in prayer because of his impending passion. Later he went back and found the three Apostles sleeping. He said to them, “So you had not the strength to stay awake with me for one hour? Stay awake, and pray not to be put to the test” (Mtt. 26:40 – 41). Some Christians who take part in night vigils come with mats and pillows. Are they going there to sleep or to keep awake in prayer? One of such people was caught sleeping during a night prayer vigil. A steward woke him up and asked him to keep awake. Instead of obeying, he sighed and shouted, “Please don't disturb me again. After all Peter, James and John slept at the Garden of Gethsemane during the messianic vigil.”
Last Sunday a certain elderly man was sleeping while a priest was delivering a homily. A church-warden gently tapped him with a stick and said, “Stay awake and listen to the Word of God. This is not the time to sleep. Do not joke with your salvation.” The elderly man woke up and was very furious. Pointing at the church-warden he warned, “Mind yourself! You who are awake, what have you learnt? Stop walking about looking for trouble.” The church-warden was dumbfounded. The attention of the priest homilist was drawn to the scene. He stopped preaching and asked, “What is happening over there?” The church-warden raised his voice and said, “Excuse me father, someone here is suffering from sleeping sickness and needs deliverance.” The sleeping elderly man fired back verbally, “It is you who need deliverance for disturbing me when I was absorbed in deep sober reflection on the Word of God.” The entire congregation went into murmuring and laughter session until the priest shouted, “I command you devil to get out of this church!” There was silence everywhere as everyone was looking around to see the devil leaving.
Meanwhile, a little child of four months old began to cry. One overzealous woman among the congregation shouted, “Please take away that crying little devil from this church!” At this moment, all those sleeping when the church service was going on kept awake. Have you ever slept in the church during prayers? Stay awake!
There is a special type of sleep that every good child of God is expected to be involved in. It is coined from English and Igbo words: 'sleeping-muruanya'. It is done by shutting one eye and keeping the other open. In other words, you sleep with one eye closed while the other stays awake always. If you sleep like this, you can never be taken unaware. Evil men and evil spirits can never come near you. Even death becomes afraid to claim you due to your vigilance. Kindly consult me if you find 'sleeping-muruanya' difficult to practice. Practice makes perfect.
As we enter into the Advent season, we must stay awake to avoid had-I-known. It is a period of preparation for Christmas, whereby we look forward to the Word of God being incarnated in our hearts. That's why we say, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us!”
Unfortunately, many people prepare only for material Christmas whereby they eat, drink and enjoy the pleasures of the flesh. Fuel scarcity is mostly experienced during Christmas period to make it difficult for Christians to go home for the Yuletide celebration. Some become stranded on the way. Last year, many Christians celebrated Christmas at Petrol stations. Transport owners hike transport fares so such that many travelers pay from their noses. Many communities, groups and individuals see Christmas as a period of meetings, fund-raising, marriages, masquerading, etc. The sober reflection and prayer surrounding Christmas are little thought of by many Christians.
Advent is also a time we look forward to the Second Coming of our Saviour Jesus Christ in glory. Advent is derived from the Latin word 'Venire' which means 'to come.' The Lord Jesus will come again to judge the living and the dead. How prepared are we to meet him? It may be today or tomorrow. Only God knows (Chukwuma). The hen admonished her chicken to be vigilant as they go about their daily search for feeds. If animals whose lives do not go beyond here could be vigilant, then how about us (human beings) who have the hope of the Resurrection? Therefore, we must stay awake lest we fall into Satan's eternal trap.
Whenever death knocks at our door, then Christ has come. So, as we prepare for the Yuletide, let's also prepare for eternity. Any of the two can come first. Not all who celebrated Christmas last year are alive today. Hence we should celebrate the forthcoming Christmas as if it will be our last on earth. Alertness is the watch-word. Jesus asks you and me, “What shall it profit a man (a woman) to gain the whole world and loses his (her) soul?” (Luke 9:25).
As the year ends, we ought to take stock of our lives. If you do not lick your lips, the harmattan will lick it for you by force. According to Saint Augustine, “God created us without our cooperation but He cannot save us without our cooperation.” This means that God helps those who help themselves. In a nutshell, grace can only work on nature. If we have sinned, God wants our repentance now. There is no repentance in the grave. A dog that would get lost ignores the hunter's whistle.
As we prepare for Christmas and the Second Coming of the Lord (death), we also prepare for the 2019 General Elections. Keep your Permanent Voter's Card (PVC) intact. We must perform our civic responsibility by going out to vote when the time comes. Vote according to your conscience. It is a criminal act before God and man to sell your vote. Buying of votes is also a grave crime. Those who rig themselves into power cannot rig themselves into Heaven. Let us fall on our knees and pray ardently for God's intervention in the 2019 general elections. Man proposes but God disposes. We look forward to having free, fair and credible elections come 2019. Fellow Nigerians, stay awake spiritually and physically so that the devil and evil men will not manipulate the forthcoming elections! Come, Lord Jesus Christ!