The Best Birthday Ever

by Mary Johnson, Children's Ministries

Working in the world of children, birthdays are a very big deal. When we celebrate them in All Things Bright and Beautiful or in Children's Chapel on Sundays, the birthday boy or girl is so thrilled to be the recipient of the greetings and the center of attention. So, when we talk about Christmas as Jesus' birthday, I see the same animated enthusiasm in the children. It is remarkable to me (and very gratifying) that when the discussion is about the special birthday we celebrate on December 25, rarely does the conversation go to Santa. We eventually DO get around to the discussion about Santa, and we love that too. It's just so fun to have the joy about the best birthday ever!

Our December traditions have been the Baby Jesus doll that the two-year-olds make, the mangers that the three and four-year-olds make, the children learning Away in a Manger (which is sung through the end of the year), bringing in mittens and hats to donate to The Good News Partners Saturday program, and, of course, the Children's Pageant on Christmas Eve! It occurs to me that our December traditions in celebration of the birth of Jesus incorporate so beautifully the Four Keys of passing on our faith: Rituals and Traditions, Caring Conversations, Worship, and Outreach. It might be a wonderful tradition to start in our own homes as we anticipate the next birthday of a family member. No doubt we do some of them already but probably not all four.

I have been hearing wonderful stories about children who ask the invited guests to their birthday party to bring a gift to donate. What a beautiful expression of Outreach. The obvious component of birthday celebrations is the Rituals and Traditions piece: a favorite birthday cake on a special plate perhaps. There is most likely caring conversation during the celebration of a birthday and even that piece could be more intentional; feelings of the parents and grandparents on the day you were born that include specific and special memories.

As for the worship piece, I mentioned that we love to celebrate birthdays in the classroom and in Children's Chapel. The children feel so special when they receive a Birthday Blessing from one of the clergy. These are just some things to ponder as we turn the calendar to a new year and anticipate the next birthday in the family. It can be very, very special! Maybe not the best birthday ever, but very special!