HAPPY BIRTHDAY JESUS
by paul hoffmaster
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December 25th is the day we celebrate Jesus’ birthday. It is probably not the actual date of God’s incarnate visit to earth, but at least most of Christendom can come together on this date to exhibit a momentary ritual of unity. The Angels, Mary and Joseph, the Shepherds and Wise Men and, of course, the Baby Jesus dominate the religious services. Pageants, plays, and cantatas ring through the sanctuaries of worship. Songs exemplifying the events surrounding the birth of the Savior are moved from their dusty storage to prominence. Amazingly, there are even services of celebration that are held on Christmas Eve; that’s right, an evening service! Do you remember when there were Sunday Evening services during the rest of the year? Of course, today we don’t want to be too “fanatical” by going to church too much.
Jesus’ birthday parties have taken the form of “presents and gifts” that symbolize our love for each other. There is a blessing in giving as well as in receiving. What a joy it is to see the faces of children as they open their gifts in anticipation that what they had wished for was about to become reality. One can also expect them to exhibit a disappointment that there are not more presents to open. Adults share gifts with each other knowing that there will be a high degree of returns or a movement of “regifting.” When the Birthday parties are over, January’s mail brings the consequence of our giving. Plastic had made it so easy to give, but now there is not enough paper to pay for our seasonal joy! Why does giving always have to take the form of materialistic things? There is nothing wrong with gifting, especially with children, but it needs to be done responsively. Children need to realize Whose birthday is being celebrated. They need to understand it isn’t how much something costs, but the thought behind it. They need to be taught it isn’t how many gifts you get, but rather how to be thankful for the ones they received. I wish parents would spend as much time teaching their children about the true meaning of Christmas as they do in embellishing Santa Claus. There is nothing wrong in having Santa Claus, but it is wrong when he replaces Jesus as the reason for the season!
Let us not forget the One who gave us the greatest gift the world has ever known. “God so loved…. that He gave…” (John 3:16) When children open gifts we teach them to say thank you to the giver. Let us all pause in the midst of strewn wrapping paper to thank God for giving us Jesus. When we accepted this marvelous gift, the doorway to God was opened. If it wasn’t for the Giver, we would never have the Gift!
During this time of the year, let us learn that real giving is not the issuing of material things, but rather a time of giving of ourselves to each other. Why not offer to clean someone’s house? Drive them to the doctor or the store and anywhere they want to go for the next two weeks? How about free babysitting for three nights so that husbands and wives can enjoy a time away? How about preparing four or five meals for shut-ins? You get the idea? Make it in the form of a coupon and put it in a Christmas card. They can then redeem them at their convenience. God gave, Jesus gave, let us learn to give. One of the best gifts you can give someone is your love and support. There are people today that would rather have your company than a Christmas card with your name on it or a gift that cannot talk back. Make this the best Birthday celebration ever!
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