It’s Not Your Birthday

My daughter Lucy was whisked away by her mother to a birthday party at her friend’s house. Birthday parties often seem tailor-made for that age: when you’re six years old, and still kind of believe in Santa, and still think dressing up as a princess or a knight is the only proper way to attend a party.

And of course, under Lucy’s arm: the obligatory gift. Humans may make grave errors, and generally behave like savages, but we still understand how important it is to celebrate a birthday. The celebration of existence.

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I didn’t attend the party, having taken on the care of our other three children. But I didn’t have to be there to know, generally, how it went. I’m sure there was lots of loud chattering. Some anticipation as the gifts were opened. Sugar pulsing through little veins as chocolate cake and ice cream are consumed. Petty arguments and the sown seeds of some later, dear friendships.

But I can guarantee you one thing that didn’t happen.

I guarantee that when the guests arrived, they didn’t start handing gifts to each other to open. They didn’t leave the birthday-girl sitting at the head of the table empty-handed. In fact, I’m pretty sure that the birthday girl opened all the gifts, and the other little girls were excited to watch.

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Christmas. Whose birthday is it anyway? I know it’s not mine, or my kids, or my extended family’s, but then why do we get all the gifts?

And if I arrive at a great Christmas party, either in my own living room or some other place, and I wanted to give a gift to the birthday boy, how could I even do that?

“For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’

“Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing?  When did we ever see you sick or in prison, and visit you?’

And the King will tell them, ‘I assure you, when you did it to one of the least of these, my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’

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Enjoy your Christmas. Have a great time eating and exchanging gifts. But don’t forget whose birthday Christmas celebrates. And perhaps, if you want to give a gift to the birthday boy, you might think about

feeding the hungry.

clothing the naked.

showing someone hospitality.

visiting someone in prison.

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A Franciscan Benediction:

May God bless you with discomfort,
at easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships,
so that you may live deep within your heart.

May God bless you with anger,
at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people,
so that you may work for justice, freedom, and peace.

My God bless you with tears,
to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation, and war,
so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and turn their
pain to joy.

And may God bless you with enough foolishness,
to believe that you can make a difference in this world,
so that you can do what others claim cannot be done.


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Disclaimer #1 – to all of you who protest, “But my birthday is December 25th!”…Happy birthday. I think you can still get my point.

Disclaimer #2 – I stole the title “It’s Not Your Birthday” from Ginghamsburg United Methodist Church in Troy, OH. My theft is yet another example of the depravity of human beings.