Happy Birthday Jesus
Christmas is once again upon us. The decorations are up and the Christmas music, often inane, is blaring in and outside the stores. There is no escape from Frosty the Snowman, Jingle Bells, Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer, and the classic, Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer. The debates continue to rage on regarding whether someone for whom you purchase a Christmas present should say Merry Christmas to you even though they may be a radical atheist. The month has just started and I am already ready for this season to be over. You can call me Scrooge, but I am not a big fan of Christmas. Now I am sure there are a number of reasons for this, some probably dating back to my days of being potty trained, when the joy and freedom of life was ripped from my fragile psyche. But I don’t think all the blame lies there. I believe that part of it is just the reality of what Christmas has become. Christmas is a time when people spend money they don’t have on things most people don’t need or want to celebrate the coming of Christ who left everything to become one of us, live among us and then die for us. Does the giving of gifts to one another at Christmas even make sense?
I was pondering all this as I rode my bicycle around the lake today and I had a moment of clarity, dare I say inspiration, a kind of Christmas miracle that I would like to share with you. I was thinking about birthdays and what happens on birthdays. Now I don’t know about you but on my birthday I get presents, presents because it is my birthday. No one else receives presents. There is no exchange of presents between people in my family. The only person who receives gifts on my birthday is me! In fact, I may be a bit selfish, but I wouldn’t be at all too pleased if everyone else got a gift on my birthday. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying Jesus feels that way. I am just saying that the person receiving the presents should be the one who is having the birthday. Now what if we applied this axiomatic truth (that only those who are actually having a birthday are to receive presents) to Christmas, the celebration of Jesus’ birth? What if we decided to give presents to Jesus?
Well, it would mean a number of things. It would mean the day after Thanksgiving would not be a huge shopping day. It would mean that you wouldn’t have to stress over what to buy for so and so. It would mean that people wouldn’t have large credit card bills looming over their heads long after Christmas is over and done with. It would mean that you wouldn’t have to rush around looking for a parking space, fighting the crowds and just plain feeling harried and stressed. It could mean that you might have space in your life to actually enter into the Advent and Christmas season and spend time pondering the wonder of the gift that is ours, Immanuel, God with us. Now wouldn’t that be a nice way to celebrate the birth of our savior, Lord and friend?
But I am still left with a question; what would it mean to give a gift to Jesus at Christmas time, on his birthday? I think there are two places to look to find our answer. The first is the song “The Little Drummer Boy” (a song I actually enjoy). I love the “pa rum pum pum pum,
rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum” part. Come on, who doesn’t like singing that?
As I read the lyrics below, I notice four things that may help us discover how we could actually give a gift to Jesus.
1. The gifts are given to honor the new born King. This speaks to the issue of motivation. The desire behind our gift(s) should be the honoring of Jesus.
2. The boy shares himself and his giftedness with the new born King. The gift should be an outflow of who we are and the gifts we have.
3. The boy does the best he can. We should also give the “best” we have to offer.
4. Jesus is pleased when our gifts are an outflow of whom we are and when those gifts are shared.
Come they told me, pa rum pum pum pum
A new born King to see, pa rum pum pum pum
Our finest gifts we bring, pa rum pum pum pum
To lay before the King, pa rum pum pum pum,
rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum,
So to honor Him, pa rum pum pum pum,
When we come.
Little Baby, pa rum pum pum pum
I am a poor boy too, pa rum pum pum pum
I have no gift to bring, pa rum pum pum pum
That's fit to give the King, pa rum pum pum pum,
rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum,
Shall I play for you, pa rum pum pum pum,
On my drum?
Mary nodded, pa rum pum pum pum
The ox and lamb kept time, pa rum pum pum pum
I played my drum for Him, pa rum pum pum pum
I played my best for Him, pa rum pum pum pum,
rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum,
Then He smiled at me, pa rum pum pum pum
Me and my drum.
Before drawing any conclusions, let’s look at one more place. Let’s look at the very words of Jesus in Matthew 25:34-40. Jesus states, “Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'
Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'
The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'
I think this passage powerfully communicates what it might mean to give a gift to Jesus, what kind of gift that might be, and to whom that gift might be given. This passage tells us that Jesus stands behind/with the disenfranchised, the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the sick, and the imprisoned and says, “You love me and you give to me as you give to these individuals.” I think the message is quite clear. If we desire to give a gift to Jesus we are encouraged by Jesus to help meet the needs of those who are struggling, those who are living at the margins of life, those who are often forgotten and ignored.
If we combine the truths from the drummer boy song and the words of Jesus, we see that if one is to give a gift to Jesus one does so to honor Jesus. We also see that the gift should be an outflow of the person and involve a sharing of themselves and/or their gifts and that these gifts are to be given to those who are in need. Just as Jesus came to the sick and not the well, our gifts should be directed to those who are struggling.
So now what? If you are sensing a pull to give a birthday gift to Jesus this year, what can you do?
Give of your time and talents:
Be open to God’s leading in this. God may be inviting you to give of your time and talents by doing something such as serving at a soup kitchen or a food bank, helping with a construction or house cleaning project in a poor neighborhood, or visiting a prison, as well as seeking to involve those in your church in one of these ministries. You can search the web for your own local rescue mission, food bank, abused and battered women and children shelter, or other organization that is offering assistance to those who are marginalized. These groups are all in need of help and each seek to uniquely meet the needs in your very own community, the needs that Jesus lays out in the Matthew 25 passage.
It is important to seek God’s leading in the timing of this also…these organizations not only need assistance during the holidays but also throughout the rest of the year. If you sense God leading you to help at a time other than this Christmas season, you may want to sit down with Jesus now, deciding together what you may feel led to give Jesus as a birthday gift and marking that time out on your 2009 calendar. I am going to serve a few times this coming year at one of our local soup kitchens.
God may also challenge you to give of your financial resources. Here are a few suggestions of places that welcome your assistance in feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and helping the sick and imprisoned. There are many, many more worthy organizations but these are a few I have been involved with over the years. As a birthday gift to Jesus, you can give a financial gift to these organizations. Or in lieu an item you would purchase at a store for someone, you may want to give monetarily to an organization in that person’s name. I have asked my family to choose something from the Y-Malawi catalog to be given in my name.
This is an organization that helps those struggling in Malawi. This ministry allows you to help, through your financial gifts, to provide clean water, seed for crops, and animals to help support families and generate income. This ministry also provides opportunities for your church to actually adopt an entire village in Malawi. You might want to check it out.
This is a non-profit humanitarian organization dedicated to working with children, families, and their communities worldwide to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice. They have an excellent Christmas catalogue containing a wide variety of ways to give help to those in need. A goat and two chickens where given in the name of our family. How cool is that.
Samaritan's Purse International
This non-profit relief and evangelism organization provides spiritual and physical aid to victims of war, poverty, natural disaster, and disease. www.samaritanspurse.org
Habitat for Humanity International
This is a nonprofit, ecumenical Christian housing organization building simple, decent, affordable housing in partnership with people in need.
Prison Fellowship is a nonprofit volunteer-reliant prison ministry focused on the mission of transformation through the grace and power of Jesus Christ.
What about you?
What may be God’s invitation/challenge regarding the giving of a birthday present to Jesus this Christmas?
HAPPY BIRTHDAY JESUS!
-Additionally under manna in the food for thought section of the b website you will find two interactive devtional materials that will help you to enter in the Christmas Season. These are the 4 weeks of Advent series and 'The 12 days of Christmas'.
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