Kids ask the craziest questions sometimes, leaving even a parent with multiple degrees scrambling for an answer. Today was a perfect example. It started out as a peaceful winter day during the term break. The children and I sat around the fire, warm and cosy, happily ignoring the bleak drizzle outside. We browsed through our family scrapbooks of memories. It was the perfect ‘happy family’ scene.
“Look! That was when I was two. There’s Winnie the Pooh!”
Indeed, Winnie the Pooh was everywhere. Katie, now six, still had a soft spot for ‘Pooh Bear’. For her second birthday, we had bought Winnie the Pooh napkins, paper plates and cups, party hats, balloons, whistles, and of course, she had her ‘Pooh Bear’ cake. Katie had laughed and laughed that day. We’d lit those candles many times, as much for our pleasure at watching her happiness as anything.
“Here’s my ‘Brum’ car cake … and I had a train cake too!” eight year old Ben, flipping the page, not willing to be outdone by his little sister. Indeed, that year we had celebrated his birthday twice, once on the day, and once several days later with extended family.
“Once a year, on your birthday, Mum and Dad do almost anything to show how much we love you. You are incredibly special. I hope you know that.” I was rather proud of this ‘positive affirmation’ statement. What I hadn’t counted on was Katie’s spiritually inquisitive little mind.
“Mum, when is God’s birthday? We love Him and He’s special, but we never have a birthday cake for Him.”
“Stupid, we have a Christmas cake – and a tree and presents. That’s God’s birthday!” Ben retorted. His observations were rewarded with a firm reprimand. “Don’t you EVER call your sister ‘stupid’, do you hear me?”
“Okay, but Christmas is God’s birthday. And Easter is his funeral, like Uncle Jack’s funeral, ‘cept Jesus didn’t stay dead.”
Right. Now we had issues of eternity and the trinity out for clarification. I carefully searched the dark recesses of my mind, hunting for the best way to explain such deep spiritual truths to two special kids.
“Jesus is God’s Son, and yes, we remember when he was born at Christmas.” (‘Don’t ask about the Holy Spirit’ was the thought uppermost in my mind as I quickly moved on!) “But God is Jesus’ Father, and He doesn’t have a birthday.”
The look of shock on Katie’s face was priceless, while Ben looked at me suspiciously. I knew he’d check this possible heresy with Mrs Smith, his teacher. She knows everything, according to Ben.
“Look at Mummy’s ring. Here – hold it, Katie. Now, where does it start? And where does it finish?”
The kids thought I’d gone potty. Of course it didn’t have a beginning or end.
“Mummy’s ring is just like God. He doesn’t have a beginning or end either. That’s why we don’t celebrate His birthday. He was never born. He was always there.”
“He’ll never have a funeral then, like Uncle Jack’s, will he, Mum?”
“That’s right, Ben. You’ve got it.”
Patting myself on the back for seamlessly leading these kids through the complexities of theological debate, Katie abruptly brought me back to the level of a six year old.
“So, if birthday cake is to show us how special we are, and God doesn’t have a birthday, we should have cake anyway, right?”
Huh? I was lost, but Ben was quick on the uptake.
“Let’s make God a cake. He’s very special, so we should have a chocolate cake with coloured sprinkles on it.” Marching into the kitchen, I did what any good mother would do. Following Ben’s spiritual leadership, we got busy!
Finally, surveying our finished work of art with pride, we had one last hurdle to straddle. “If God doesn’t have a birthday, we can’t sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to Him. What shall we sing?”
A few minutes of lively discussion ensued, after which we held hands in a triangle around the chocolate cake with sprinkles. The three candles burned brightly. “One for God, one for Jesus and one for the Holy Spirit,” Ben had stated emphatically. My son is going to be a theologian!
“I love you Lord, and I lift my voice to worship you.” The sweet strains of the old chorus wafted through the house. Perhaps we should have cake every day. After all, we wouldn’t want to forget how special God is.
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