Happy Birthday, Dear Jesus
By the Rev. Ed Hird+
One December morning, a boy came up to me and said "Christmas is coming, and I am going to get lots of presents: a new IPod, a Video Camcorder, and more computer games. He went on and on with his very long list until I said "Doesn't Christmas mean more to you than presents?" He looked at me with a puzzled expression and said "What do you mean?" I said, "Isn't it someone's birthday?" He said, with complete sincerity, "Is it yours?" I responded, "No, it's Jesus' Birthday on December 25th." The boy said, "I didn't know that. That's neat!"
I left that conversation, saddened that a boy could be so excited over Christmas presents, without even knowing whose birthday we celebrate at Christmas. When I was a child, even the Public Schools could openly celebrate the beautiful story of the birth of the baby Jesus. Public Schools even used to have Christmas Pageants in which, as little children we would dress up as shepherds, angels, soldiers, or as wise men. I have discovered that there is no better way to learn a story, like Christmas, than to dress up and act it out.
Our society still has a very strong emotional attachment to Christmas. But the busyness and excessive commercialism of the Christmas Season can leave us more exhausted than refreshed. Our family has found that rediscovering the true meaning of Christmas helps us to enjoy Christmas more, without getting so caught up in the frantic pre-Christmas frenzy.
Christmas for our family, first and foremost, is a birthday party. At a birthday party, it's I okay to have fun and celebrate. It's fun to gather the whole family together. It's fun to open presents at a birthday party. But the most important thing at a birthday party is not the balloons, or the cake, or the party bags, or even the presents. The most important thing is the person whose birthday we are celebrating.
When baby Jesus was born at Christmas, wise men came along and celebrated his birthday, by giving Jesus presents (gold, frankincense, and myrrh). But the most important thing at the first Christmas was not these three very expensive presents. The most important thing was that very precious baby, who came to earth to ultimately die for us.