Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Not his real birthday

My grandpa, who passed away a couple years ago, would've turned 91 today. But what is funny about December 5th is that he didn't discover it was his actual birthdate until sometime in his seventies.

Up until that point - for seventy plus years of his life - he'd celebrated his birthday on December 4th.

Isn't that funny? I remember several years ago when he came to me with a tugging half-smile, which was about the most expression you'd ever glimpse on the veteran's usual countenance, and said he'd found a copy of his birth certificate. He quietly snorted in amusement at the mistake that had been repeated for so long. Again, it was the closest you'd ever hear to a laugh. And upon learning that he'd celebrated the wrong birthday all his life, this was his equivalent of cracking up.

Now, with Christmas nearing, I think about those I know who debate whether or not Christians should celebrate Jesus' birth on grounds that it is not the exact calendar day of his birth.

And I can't help think of my beloved grandpa.

I wonder what he did for his tenth birthday. Did he get an extra nickel for the movie theater to bring a friend along? What about his 21st? Certainly he was in the army by then. Maybe his band of brothers bought him drinks and took him to a dance hall. I'm sure, during the years he had a wife and son, my grandma made him a pot of pasta and homemade meatballs. Maybe a roast. Definitely a cake, probably with canned pineapple.

And I very much remember his 80th. I helped plan it, a great party, at a local neighborhood clubhouse. It had a holiday theme, and each place setting was marked with a small wooden nutcracker. We had catered Italian food, and a woman on the accordion warmed the atmosphere with her playing.

Were any of these moments less valuable because they happened to be on the wrong day? Was the love for my grandpa less powerful, and did any of his joy diminish after learning his birthday was actually a different day? Of course not.

I remember how greatly we anticipated that night of his 80th, so eager to make my grandpa feel loved and appreciated. I went to great lengths to prepare a slide show of old photos set to his favorite Sinatra songs. Gifts were lovingly chosen. Family members drove great distances to attend. All for him, my grandpa. A man who had burned many bridges before I was even born. A man who struggled to parent. Struggled to love. Struggled to trust God until He was tired and broken from ageing. I loved him very much, but he had a messy journey, much of which I'm thankful to have missed.

But then there's Jesus. He is the greatest man to ever have been born. He is my Savior, my best friend, and the reason I live. I have to be honest: I am so excited to celebrate His birthday! I just can't wrap my head around engaging in a debate over which day he was really born on. I don't care. I just love him. Isn't that what matters?

Think about how excited you get to throw your child a birthday party. Are you as excited or more to celebrate the birthday of our Lord? To bring him gifts of praise and gratefulness? Aren't you worshipping and singing and sharing the story with your family and friends? Christmas is such a great opportunity to share our JOY over the fact that God came down to this hopeless place in the person of Jesus to rescue us! What is more worth celebrating than that? It saddens me to think there are confessing believers in Jesus who are missing the biggest opportunity we have on the calendar to witness to the world about the real meaning of this month-long holiday season. You and I both know how much the world needs to hear it. 
I'm making the most of it. I'm trying to have extra patience in lines and on the road (it's not easy!). I'm trying to really see people. Yesterday I affirmed the woman at the cash register in the craft store for her positive attitude and great smile. It's not that hard, once we see past our agendas. And I'm trying to model giving. Giving, giving, giving. That is not easy either, when times are tough financially. But modeling giving is not always about things that can be bought. It's also listening and card-writing and baking and inviting and serving too. I want my kids to see the many ways we can give at Christmas, all motivated by this: For God so loved the world that HE GAVE.   
I miss my grandpa. But one day, I'll see him again. I have a feeling that in heaven, it may as well be December 25th every day.      



  1. ah, yes! in heaven it must be december 25th everyday..."joy to the world the Lord is come!"

    and this is lovely leslie.

  2. I love the juxtaposition of Christmas with your own child's birthday. I never really thought of it that way, really. We should be JUST as excited in our preparation for Jesus' big day!

  3. Yes, let's celebrate Jesus! At Christmas time and all the time! Our family loves to have fun giving during this season. We celebrate Hannukkuh, too, and talk about Jesus being the light of the world and how He reclaims the temple of our hearts. :)