Christmas Reflections: Did Jesus Ever Celebrate His Birthday?

Source: http://pixgood.com/happy-birthday-jesus-cake.html
Source: http://pixgood.com/happy-birthday-jesus-cake.html

“Did Jesus ever celebrate His birthday?”

I know this is a rather odd question but I beg your indulgence. It’s Christmas Day and I was reminded (again) that Jesus was not born on 25 December; and if one would engage in some clever detective work through the Scriptures, the astute student of the Word would know that it was sometime in September.

Sounds nice and revelatory, impressive even. But then, I can’t help but wonder, “You mean to say that the early church fathers and leaders did not know this at all?” Who did the calculations, who made the assumptions, and who approved 25 December? Oh right, the Bible as we know it today was not compiled yet. But were not the gospels in circulation already? And if Jesus’ birth was really in September, surely oral tradition would have attested to that. What’s more, could not Jesus’ family and relatives provide verification? Would not His disciples know their Master’s birthday, having spent three years with him? Surely, they must have cut at least one birthday cake with Him.

That prompted me to google, “How do Jews celebrate birthdays?” Since Jesus was a Jew, this would be the most natural place to start that I may have an idea of how important birthdays are to Jews and how they are celebrated.

To my surprise, this is what I found on http://www.ritualwell.org…

The Encyclopedia Judaica could not be more blunt: “The celebration of birthdays is unknown in traditional Jewish ritual.”

The tradition also holds that your birth alone is not as significant as the way you live your life. After all, King Solomon is thought to have said, “The day of death is better than the day of one’s birth (Ecclesiastes 7:1).

As a midrash explains, ‘When a person is born, it is not known what he will be like when grown and what his deeds will be whether righteous or wicked, good, or evil. When he dies, however, if he departs with a good name and leaves the world in peace, people should rejoice.” With that in mind, traditional communities are more likely to mark the anniversary of a revered leader’s death than his birth.

I stand guided and corrected (for I am no Jewish scholar) but if this is indeed accurate, then would it not be safe to assume that Jesus never celebrated His birthday in the way we are accustomed to in Western and secular influence? As I have learnt from Dr Michael Brown (askdrbrown.org), we need to see Jesus through Jewish lenses because Jesus was a Jew. We cannot and must not impose our own cultural biases on Him or the Scriptures (which is primarily a Jewish document).

Now, if Jesus did not celebrate His birthday, why do we make such a big hooha over it? Don’t get me wrong! I am thankful that God sent His Son, that Jesus was born (whichever month or day that was). Yet, consistent with Eccl 7:1 and the explanation of the midrash, it is the death of Jesus that is more significant than His birth. For if Jesus had not been obedient until the point of death, His birth – and I write this with utmost reverence and respect – would have meant much less. A wise man, a great teacher, a compassionate friend, a miracle worker He still would have been. But we would still be in our sins in dire need of the perfect Sacrifice and Saviour.

Perhaps that explains why I have been not been feeling very “Christmassy” of late. It could be a sign of age, or I’m just plain tired of all the hype and commercialism of the season. And no, I am not one of those who refuse to celebrate Christmas because it’s the wrong date or a pagan festival disguised in Christian garb. I just don’t think we should go overboard with this Christmas thingy.

But the Cross and death of Jesus Christ is totally different. I have always declared that every believer must have a fresh revelation of the Cross over and over again. Without His death, where would we be? Without His shed blood, our sins would only be covered but not washed away. Without His broken body, there would not have been a new and living way into the presence of God! Paul never wrote about Jesus’ birth but always gloried in His Cross and determined to preach Jesus and Him crucified. Yes, I would gladly mark and celebrate the death of Jesus Christ … more than His birth.

Thanks for reading this little Christmas reflection. For sure, Christmas, with all its traditions and inaccuracies, is here to stay; as will the fat man in the red suit and Christians who still insist on wearing his signature hat (Santa? No Santa?). And yes, I am still open and available to preach at Christmas services and outreaches.

Blessed Christmas!

Turning 50: Simple and quiet but no less significant

 

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The BIG 5-0. I guess it’s a milestone of sorts and one that should be marked and observed. It is, after all, a celebration of having lived life for half a century. Surely, it deserves more attention than the usual, annual birthday routines.

I believe it was March last year, at 48 years old, that the reality of turning 50 dawned upon me. Instinctively, the idea of staging a mini-concert crossed my mind. Yes, I would gather my friends who would also turn 50 in the same year and we would put together a little show to the glory of God! That seemed like a good idea but the Lord had other plans for me.

Quite soon after my 49th birthday, as I entered my 50th year, God began to reveal the next steps. Just over a month later, the instruction came for me cross over into new ground. That meant stepping down as a pastor of CVCC; and later, as dean of CVSOM. From what seemed like a safe and secure ministry track, I was taken back to square one – stepping out again and not knowing where I am to go! In my year of Jubilee, the Lord wasted no time in hitting the RESET button. Thankfully, by His grace, the next assignment in Archippus Awakening was shown clearly to me on 27 Oct 2013. With this seed planted in the womb of my spirit, I carried this baby over the next 40 weeks before holding a prophetic event to mark the birth of Archippus Awakening on 3 Aug 2014. With all the attention and focus on this new assignment, there was simply no time to think about how I should celebrate my 50th birthday.

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Triple Three treat!

And so, two days ago, on 24 August 2014, yours truly turned 50, by the grace of God. At the stroke of midnight, my wife whispered, “Happy Birthday.” When the children got up that morning, still bleary-eyed, they headed straight to my room and wished me with a big kiss and a big hug, “Happy Birthday, Daddy!” We went to church and then got home to open the cards and presents that each had specially prepared with love.That night, we treated ourselves to a scrumptious buffet spread – just our family, together with my parents and aunt. We didn’t even have a birthday cake but that suited me just fine. Five big candles would have been nice but nothing could have replaced the glow and warmth of my family. Yes, it was a very simple and quiet affair but no less significant. I was happy to have spent it in that way with the ones I love and cherish deeply.

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With Helena and her children at Starz, Hard Rock Hotel, Sentosa.
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With Archippus Awakening intercessors.

That day might have been spent very simply but I must also acknowledge the others who remembered and celebrated with me both before and after. It was especially meaningful to have had an earlier joint birthday dinner with my sister (another August baby) and her children when they were back in Singapore. My Diploma students blessed me with a blueberry cheesecake when we gathered for class last Thursday. On Saturday, the Archippus Awakening Prayer Team came to my place for intercession and we ended with fellowship and a blackforest cake – another favourite of mine! Of course, thanks to the Facebook community, I received so many well wishes and prayers online. And last evening, our haverim (group of disciples) surprised me, collaborating with Serene to drop by for dinner and another little celebration!

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Blessed with a blueberry cheesecake from Hilton Hotel by CVSOM Diploma students.
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Must teach these disciples never to shout “SURPRISE!!!” so loudly at a 50 year old man.

Fifty years old. Five decades of having experienced God’s grace. In this new season, it is clear that there are new things to learn and new mountains to conquer. The race has begun and the work has already started. I am glad that there was no big birthday bash but just a simple marking of a milestone and a consciousness of having entered into the next decade of life, one that must be lived entirely for the glory of God through the fulfilment of my assignment in Archippus Awakening.

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And the word for this new season? … “No eye has seen , no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him.” 1 Cor 2:9 In other words, although I have lived 50 years, although I have tasted the Lord’s goodness and faithfulness, although I have experienced His power and provision … I ain’t seen nothin’ yet! AMEN!

Totally Blessed on My Birthday

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Each year, by the time it gets to my birthday, I am usually too tired to celebrate it. Mine’s the last in the Lim Tribe’s Birthday series, and after eight birthdays in seven months, I am totally happy to let mine pass quietly.

But that is not how it is to my children. To them, a birthday is a birthday and birthdays are meant to be celebrated, whether you are tired or not! To this end, I am really glad they made that extra effort for me. When I woke up that Saturday morning, they filed into the room with self-made birthday cards, complete with drawings, bible verses and specially-crafted birthday blessings all on their own, right from their hearts!

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In the afternoon, I was further surprised by Serene, who announced that she made not one, but TWO, cheesecakes for me! And so, we tucked into cake no.1 for tea, and brought cake no.2 for dinner. Dinner was later spent with my parents and aunt at Crystal Jade, Terminal 3. As always, a sumptuous meal and great company!

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I was totally blessed on my 49th birthday by my wife, my children and parents! It sure made me feel really special.

Not only that, my birthday was made even more special when on Thursday night, the CVSOM Diploma class whipped out a cheesecake and card during the break. On Friday morning, our church’s InfoComms Team presented another cake (yes, cheese!) after our meeting and discussion. On Friday night, Breakthru Discipleship Group, upon learning that I would visit them that night, rushed to get a cake (no, not cheese) to celebrate with me. Not just my family, but also my family-in-Christ!

Truly, truly richly blessed!! Thank you, everyone, for making my 49th birthday so very special!

The Joys Of Parenting: Deborah’s Birthday Request

Today, we celebrated the seventh birthday in the Lim Tribe Birthday Series 2013 – Deborah Hope’s 6th Birthday.

Two nights ago, we asked Deborah what she would like for her birthday. She promptly replied: “A big hug and a big kiss from Daddy!” And her dinner request was simply, “Mama’s chicken wings! It’s delicious!”

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Thank you, dear Deborah Hope, for being so very sweet; and for reminding us that birthdays are special and meaningful, not because of lavish parties nor expensive presents, but when spent with people we love and care about.

Anna Joy Makes My Day

At the dining table over lunch:

Suddenly, 3 yr old Anna says, “Daddy is so and-term.”

Everyone around the table breaks into laughter.

Anna responds emphatically, “He is!”

More laughter

Anna then says, “Really… truly…”

Ah yes, my dear little Anna Joy, you sure made my birthday even more special than it already is 🙂