Saturday, December 20, 2008

Birrthday Bumps

This past week, the grade four class at my school celebrated Jesus’ birthday. In addition to traditional Christmas baking, there was a chocolate cake with one candle burning. After we sang “Happy Birthday”, the candle was blown out, and the cake was cut and distributed among the students. By this point in history, there should be over two thousand candles on Jesus birthday cake. For the past two centuries, we have celebrated Christ’s birthday in increasingly elaborate ways. But how would Jesus celebrate His own birthday?

For different reasons, my 10th, 13th, 16th, 19th, 21st and my recent 30th birthday were celebrated a little bit more so than the others. My Dad is one to try and find reason to celebrate any and every birthday in our family weather they have reasonable importance or not. These birthdays were important because:

Ø 10 (double digits)

Ø 13 (teenager)

Ø 16 (my family “Graduated me into adulthood”)

Ø 19 (legally mature)

Ø 21 (I was allowed to drink alcohol, but probably didn’t) and

Ø 30 (?)

Did Jesus ever celebrate his birthday? He had thirty-three on earth and has had almost two thousand of them in Heaven. I would think there would be at least a handful that He would enjoy celebrating more than the others.

However, the idea of celebrating birthdays was, in Jesus day, a pagan ritual. The Encyclopedia Americana (1991 edition) states: “The ancient world of Egypt, Greece, Rome, and Persia celebrated the birthdays of gods, kings, and nobles.” Therefore, Joseph would probably not have celebrated Jesus birthday, even though the angels in Heaven did, and he knew that his son was a King. Authors Ralph and Adelin Linton reveal the underlying reason for this. In their book ‘The Lore of Birthdays’, they write: “Mesopotamia and Egypt, the cradles of civilization, were also the first lands in which men remembered and honored their birthdays. The keeping of birthday records was important in ancient times principally because a birth date was essential for the casting of a horoscope.” If there was anyone who did not need a horoscope, the Son of God was certainly that person. So, Christ probably didn't celebrate his birthday, but that does not mean He did not celebrate.

There must have been a handful of parties (large or small) that happened among Jesus’ earthly family just for the heck of it. A quiet celebration may have happened at least once a year for his first few years of life. Not many babies/toddlers are searched for by their king in order to be killed, and survive. (Matt 2:13) And the extent, to which Joseph went to save his son’s life, is certainly worth remembering.

At around the age of thirteen, Jesus would have celebrated a Bas Mitzvah which would have graduated him into adulthood, passing the responsibilities that Mary and Joseph previously carried (fulfilling the laws of Moses) onto Him. This official declaration of adulthood was seen by one and all, but His Father had already graduated Him one year before. Luke 2:41-52 tells the story of Jesus, apparently lost, in the temple in Jerusalem. His parents had been there for the Passover Feast and left when it ended. After walking for a day, they realized that Jesus wasn’t walking with them. They immediately U-turned back to Jerusalem to look for their rebellious son. Finally after three days of anxious searching, they found him talking leisurely with the teachers in the temple. Jesus comment to his anxious and angry mother shows both his maturity and understanding of whose he was. “Why were you searching for me?” He asked. “Didn't you know I had to be in my Father's house?” (Luke 2:49) If Jesus was a teenager of the 21st century, He may well have rolled his eyes and added a “dah!” because His self-esteem and self-knowledge was greater than any teenager before or since. His Heavenly Father had and would continue to celebrate Him, so who else needed to do so?

The second greatest tribute Jesus ever received was the commission from His Father before He began public ministry at the age of thirty. John, his cousin and forerunner had baptized him in the Jordon River. It could have been a regular baptism, if not for the party that the Father initiated when he sent a dove to sit on Christ’s shoulder, and said: “You are My Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” (Mark 1:11, Luke 3:22) This affirmation gave Him the confidence and understanding He needed to respond wisely to Satan’s temptations in the desert, where he was about to go.

The greatest tribute Jesus received happened three years later, after He had risen from the dead and ascended back into Heaven. There, having finished all the work His Father had commissioned Him to do, “he sat down at the right hand of God.” (Hebrews 1:3, 10:12, 12:2). Finally, Jesus had come home, never to leave again because, as he had stated from the cross, “It is finished.” (John 19:30)

Christ’s day had no Christmas, but He created it so we would have something to celebrate. Instead of opening the presents on His birthday, Christ desires to be the present for us to open. Weather you bake a cake and adorn it with candles; weather we sing “Happy Birthday Jesus” or “Joy to the World,” how will you celebrate Christ’s birthday? Have you opened your present yet?

Mary, did you know
That your baby boy is lord of all creation?
Did you know
That your baby boy will one day rule the nations?
Did you know
That your baby boy is heavens perfect lamb?
This sleeping child you’re holding
Is the great I am

Mary did you know

By Buddy Greene and Mark Lowry

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