All my life I’ve grown up hearing, “Happy Birthday baby Jesus!” around Christmas time from church members, family members, etc. I helped set up the nativity sets, arguing with my sister over who got to put baby Jesus in the manger. We’d read the Christmas story. I’d attend live nativities and try to imagine myself there, overwhelmed by Jesus like the shepherds were. But, to be honest, growing up I sometimes found “baby Jesus” a little…boring.
Why would that be? Well, sometimes all the focus on baby Jesus made Him a little less relatable to me, especially as a teenager who helped change the diapers of her two younger siblings.
My birthday is two days after Christmas and, one year, I realized the difference between mine and Jesus’ birthday (well, the date we’ve designated as His birthday, anyway.) On my birthday, we never celebrate “baby Nadine.” Nope, we celebrate 10-year-old Nadine, 15-year-old Nadine, 21-year-old Nadine, etc. We celebrate the future and, on occasion, I hear a few scattered memories of my birth.
This realization changed how I viewed His birthday. Every following year, I never saw it as “Baby Jesus’s Birthday” again. I imagined it as celebrating my best friend’s birthday, because, if I’m handling our relationship correctly, Jesus should be my best friend.
On Christmas, after remembering past blessings, adventures, and lessons, I would turn and view the future. The future with Jesus.
“We’re starting a new year together!” I would think, just as I do with all of my other dear friends. I don’t think of Him as a baby in the manger anymore. I think of Him standing over a cake with a zillion candles in it, laughing as we all re-live the paper version of his “birth video” (don’t we hate those?) and looking forward to the moment we finally turn our eyes forward.
“Happy birthday, Jesus, what do you want this next year to hold?” I’ll bet you He has the most well-developed perfect wish rolling around in his mind every time He blows out those candles. And the best part is, His ‘next year plans’ always involve us.
Now, I know Christmas isn’t completely about a birthday celebration. It’s a time for so many other things I won’t even start to list. But maybe it’s because I’ve felt we’ve shared a birthday that the “birthday aspect” of Christmas always stood out to me. And, in this way, Christmas is much more alive to me than silent little nativity scenes and gifts.
Merry Christmas, my dear friends. Give Him a tight happy birthday hug today. He’s big enough for it.