Birthday

It’s not your birthday.

Shocker, I know! But although the Christmas holiday tends to revolve around the expectation of gift-giving (more like gift-receiving), it’s really not your birthday. If I remember right, it’s Jesus’ birthday.

While I’m sure He doesn’t mind sharing His birthday with everyone, I’m sure He would mind if in our efforts to celebrate the birth of our Savior we overspent and stressed ourselves out with Christmas parties and plays and cards and holiday light trips and decorating and traveling and gingerbread house making and bargain shopping and bargain returning and buyer’s remorse and Christmas cookies and thanking everyone and their dog. I’m not saying these things are inherently bad… they aren’t. In and of themselves they are very good and traditions built and celebrated this time of year is of great value and importance. My concern is that we are not “Jesus-like” or Christian-kind-of-people while we are doing it. Sure, we have good intentions, but it seems to me that Christians should be modeling to the rest of the world how to celebrate Christmas well.

After all, we represent the baby Jesus in the way we live our lives.

I think we all often justify our “non-Jesus like” behavior in a time like this because we pride ourselves on at the very least giving Jesus the “nod.” In other words, when reminded that it is not your birthday and we do all these things in an effort to be thankful and reminded of the birth of our Savior, we say: “Yeah, I know.” But the very way we make that statement tells me, at least, that it is merely a “nod.” Just because we “nod” in Jesus’ direction at Christmas time while engaging in “non-Jesus like” behavior doesn’t make it good.

As was said before, we represent the baby Jesus in the way we live our lives.

A father of two middle school students was sharing with me the other day about making this Christmas season simple. They didn’t want to engage in the excesses that tend to get all the attention during the holidays. This family wanted to teach their kids about serving others, being with friends, and slowing down instead of ramping up. As I listened to this wise man share about his family’s refocusing this holiday season, I couldn’t help but be “blessed” and “schooled” on how we as Jesus’ people, his representatives, could be a “witness,” a model for the world around us.

At our recent Followers Christmas party, the statement, “It’s not your birthday,” caught the students off guard. After we LIVE acted the story of Jesus’ birth and all the events surrounding it, I shared very briefly that Christmas is not about all the “things” typical of the holidays, rather celebrating the birthday of Jesus.

Said in a way a child could understand, these students seemed to catch the notion of a birthday party and the joy of all the gifts coming their direction. And when reminded that Christmas is Jesus’ birthday party they wondered if the gifts during Christmas are going the wrong direction–to them instead of Him. I assured them that Jesus is happy to share these gifts with them, but would really like the way the gifts are received to be in a Jesus-kind-of-way: being thankful, instead of entitled; sharing, instead of hoarding; glad, instead of jealous; happy, instead of sad.

So instead of giving Jesus the “nod,” or possibly forgetting whose birthday we are celebrating, or maybe even compromising our vocation as Christians to show the world what God is like in a Jesus-kind-of-way, let’s model and witness a life of, dare I say it, simplicity, in a world that prides itself on anything but. This might be a message, or a way of life that the world around us desperately needs to see and experience. And as Jesus’ people, who have the gift and vision of eternal life in us, we get to deliver and live out that message, especially during the Christmas season.