Happy Birthday Jesus
Does anyone here have a birthday near a holiday? Is that a good thing or a bad thing?
I know a couple of young people, sisters, whose birthdays are July 3 and July 4 several years apart. When they were young, they were pretty sure the fireworks on July 4 were for them. They were told their parents spared no expense in making sure there were fireworks and a parade for their birthdays.
When they got older, they realized that was a joke. The fireworks weren’t for their birthdays, but they were for our country’s birthday. We know the Fourth of July is the day we celebrate the birthday of the United States of America.
I have another question for the kids here tonight: Whose birthday is tomorrow, Christmas Day?
Yeah, Jesus’ birthday is tomorrow. I understand in one of our children’s Sunday School classes a few weeks ago one of our very young students told their teacher they thought it was pretty cool that Jesus’ birthday was on Christmas. Sounds like she was a little confused like my friends whose parents still try to tell them they arranged the fireworks for their birthdays, even though they know better.
It is not a coincidence that Jesus’ birthday is on Christmas. Instead, Christmas is the holiday we celebrate Jesus’ birthday. Happy Birthday Jesus!
On Sunday, many of you were here for our Birthday Party for Jesus! And it was kind of like a lot of other birthday parties you will go to for your friends. There was cake with candles on it, some games and other fun, and everyone sang “Happy Birthday.”
That’s one of the weird things about Christmas isn’t it? Christmas is Jesus’ birthday, but you and I get the presents. Why do you think there are so many presents at Christmas?
One of the reasons there are so many presents at Christmas is because of the story of the Wise Men. There was a very wise man here earlier who told you a little about his journey. Does anyone remember what the wise men did when the finally found the baby Jesus?
They brought him gifts – very expensive gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. I think they knew a baby would rather have a toy, a rattle, a blanket, or some clean diapers. The gifts they brought told us who Jesus is, they were symbols of Jesus being the fullest intersection of our world and God’s world.
But how did it go from giving Jesus gifts to giving one another gifts? Well, I think that has to do with what being a Christian is all about. The Bible tells us several times that the gifts Jesus wants us to give him, are to take care of one another. In one place he tells us the people he is really happy with are those who have fed the hungry, given a drink to those who are thirsty, given a place to stay to people who are homeless, a coat to someone who is cold, and have visited people who are sick or lonely (Matthew 25). Jesus tells us that the best gift we can give him is taking care of one another, because when we do that to others, we are doing it to him.
Serving Others, Serving Jesus
Hundreds and hundreds of years ago, Christians used to put a candle in a window of their house on Christmas Eve as a sign to people in need that they could find help in that house. They believed that Jesus might come to them as someone in need, and they didn’t want to not help him. So they began doing nice things for people on Christmas Day (Slaughter 90).
I don’t know if that’s how it started or not, but that makes sense to me.
Part of that story that disappoints me a little. Those people only did it on Christmas Day, and I think Jesus wants us to live that way all the time.
We started the service with a really silly video from The Skit Guys called Christmas Connection (see the video here). That video made a lot of us laugh tonight. It makes me laugh every time I see it. It is somewhat silly to think a grownup would not know that the Jesus we celebrate tonight is the same Jesus we celebrate at Easter, the same Jesus who taught and did miracles, and the same Jesus we ask into our hearts. “That’s the same guy?!”
The silliness reminds me though that what we celebrate tonight is not the end of the story, but just the beginning. A story that we are to be still living out today. Christmas is not just about one day, it is about our whole lives.
Happy Birthday Jesus
We should be putting that candle in our window every day. Well, not really, but we should be people whom others come to when they are in need. We should be there for our friends when they are scared. We should share our stuff with people who don’t have enough. We should be nice, and not make fun of people who are different from us. We should treat people all year long the same way we would treat Jesus.
I know there are many of us here tonight who are thinking an awful lot about the gifts we hope to find under our tree tomorrow morning. Even though we get the gifts tomorrow, it is not our birthday, it is Jesus’. If you want to give him a gift, he wants something different than you probably want. He doesn’t want a toy, or a phone, or an iTunes gift card, or even a Lexus. Jesus wants us to take care of one another.
We give Jesus a big birthday gift when we are loving to the people around us. Not just tomorrow, but every single day! Let’s celebrate Jesus’ birthday every day.
Happy Birthday, Jesus!
Slaughter, Michael. Christmas Is Not Your Birthday: Experience the Joy of Living and Giving like Jesus. Nashville: Abingdon, 2011. Print.
Unless otherwise noted, all quotations of Scripture are from the New Revised Standard Version available online at http://bible.oremus.org.