“December 24th” - ring any bells? I’m sure the words “Christmas Eve” come to mind almost immediately. The day before Christmas is a day to finish up the last minute shopping, attend family gatherings, or take part in traditions such as eating a special meal, watching a favorite Christmas movie, or maybe opening stocking gifts. But for me, Christmas Eve marks a separate occasion - my birthday.
Now I could go on and on about how unfortunate this has been for me. Christmas birthdays totally get lost in the shuffle. The anticipation of Christmas has its way of overshadowing a day that should also be special and significant. But like many other things in life, my birth date was not something I could choose. It was totally out of my control. I am sure God had a reason for me to arrive on this day just as He had a plan for you to arrive on the date you were born.
Now consider the date, December 25, which you most certainly recognize as Christmas Day. But once again, a different birthday can so easily get lost in the shuffle of opening gifts, family gatherings, and a ham dinner.
So what’s in a birthday?
Most parents can relate to the feelings of expectation upon the news of a baby on the way. Many thoughts and dreams for the child consume our minds - but fears and worries also make their presence known. Will the baby be a boy or a girl? Will he or she be healthy? Will she look more like her dad, or like her mother? What kind of personality will he have? What will she do when she gets older? I am sure young Mary thought of many of these things when told by the angel Gabriel that she would give birth to the son of God. Although she had different questions to ponder, such as, “how can this be since I am a virgin?”
Finally the baby arrives and we are so full of love and joy we can hardly contain it! It’s time to make the announcement! “This is the most precious, beautiful, special child EVER”! Fathers hand out candy bars to co-workers and friends. Baby announcements complete with name, weight and length are mailed to proclaim the grand arrival. Visitors arrive to take their turn holding the new bundle of joy and many times baby showers are given in honor of the precious little life that has entered into the world! Even the baby announces her arrival with a strong cry of disapproval to the abrupt change that has taken place in her environment. God didn’t pull out any stops in the announcement of the birth of his son. The first announcement came by way of the angel Gabriel to Mary and in a dream to Joseph. A complete band of angels appearing in the night along with one unmistakable star painted in the sky to point the way.
Once the baby is here it’s time to give him or her a name. It’s one of the most exciting, and sometimes difficult traditions. A child’s name will identify him for the rest of his life. Many times we pass down a name according to a family tradition - maybe a name in honor of a loved one or a famous person, or holds significant meaning. Other names are completely unique by using an unusual spelling or pronouncement. Mary and Joseph didn’t have to worry about the name of their son. Gabriel told Mary at the first announcement that his name would be Jesus (Yeshua), which means “ The Lord saves”.
A birthday would not be complete without a celebration. After all, a birthday comes only once a year! It’s about celebrating life - a very unique life! It’s a time when family and friends recognize you as special to them, celebrating who you are. Candles on a cake stand in honor of the years gone by. And what’s a celebration without gifts? Giving a gift to someone on their birthday says, “you are important to me”, “you mean something to me”, “you are significant”. Even the toddler Jesus (who literally already owned everything in creation) was given gifts of great value by the wise men to celebrate his birth.
So what’s in a birthday?
A birthday is celebrated in thankfulness of the passing of another year. You may not feel like you have much worth celebrating. The past year may have brought you what seems like only pain and grief. But it’s important to take a look at how God has brought you through and how you have grown in your relationship with him. A birthday is not only pondering on the past, but it also signifies a look ahead at accomplishments and blessings to come. The celebration of a birthday should be a reflection of where we have come from and an evaluation of where we are headed - a look at how well we are living out our life’s purpose. In reflection of Jesus’ birth we find that he was born to restore our ability to fulfill this purpose. He was born to give us life - life more abundant! He was born to give us a hope and a future! He was born to die on a cross which would save us from an eternity separated from him! This was his gift to us - what will be our gift to him? What gift could we possibly give to celebrate his birth?
Romans 12:1-2 says we should offer ourselves as living sacrifices holy and pleasing to him. To not be conformed to this world, but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds so that we might discern God’s perfect will for our lives.
So what’s in a birthday?
A birthday is to be remembered. It’s easy for Christmas birthdays to be overlooked, sometimes even forgotten. I have some extra special people in my life who have gone totally out of their way to make sure I feel very special on my birthday. How must Jesus feel when we scurry about getting “wrapped up” in Christmas, not remembering it as the day of his birth? Tomorrow is Jesus’ birthday! Won’t you consider going out of your way to recognize Him? Won’t you celebrate Him by giving the most precious gift ever? The gift of yourself.