Happy Birthday, Jesus!
I was in the bakery last Friday afternoon and noticed that the cake decorator was putting the finishing touches on a white cake with vanilla frosting. I was watching her put a design around the perimeter of the cake and I assumed that she would be done. Nope – she headed to the fridge and came back with chocolate frosting. What in the world was she going to do with this?
It only took a few moments to find out. She put a big chocolate cross in the middle of the top of the cake. I figured that the cake had been ordered for a baptism being done during the holidays; when distant family members had come into town to celebrate Christmas. Or maybe it was a confirmation class that was finishing before the holiday and somebody’s daughter or grandson was becoming a member of a church; or professing their faith in Jesus Christ.
I ended up watching for a little while. When the cross was complete, the decorator went for the icing bag and filled it with more milk chocolate. The letters began to form on the side of the cake – H A P P Y B I……. Well, it was going to be a birthday cake. How cool. Somebody born near Christmas. In our family, we have had several generations of people who celebrated birthdays in December, and our daughter Jill was born on January 1st. In fact, she was the first baby born in DuPage County, IL the year she came into the world.
But now, the name of the birthday person was ready to be added. And then it happened: JESUS. I couldn’t believe it. A birthday cake for Jesus. I mean, an actual birthday cake for the Savior of the world. At first, I didn’t know what to think. I have never seen anything like that. Oh, we celebrate the birth of Christ in song and worship and going to church and even giving presents to one another. But in all my years, I have never seen an actual present for Jesus. I mean, of course, a physical present.
We are told in Matthew that the wise men brought the Christ child gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrhe. Some theologians submit that the gold represented the kingship of Jesus – and the frankincense, an expensive tree sap that had been dried and ground into a powder, represented the divinity of Jesus. After all it was used for its sweet aroma when it was burned as incense. And the myrrhe, a bitter sap, prepared in a similar way to frankincense, represented the humanity of Jesus – all the problems and shortcomings of man. And estimates put the current value of the gifts somewhere between $500,000 and $1 million dollars. But other that this example, I am hard pressed to think of modern day gifts that we think of during the celebration of the birth of Christ.
Yet, here in front of me was a cake for the Savior. I couldn’t help but inquire about the person who ordered it. I was told that every year the woman believes that her family should remember the reason for the Christmas celebration and so she orders a cake to reinforce the point and give her family a physical reminder of the presence of Christ in our midst. Frankly, it’s a great idea.
Anyway, the whole event was a gift to me. Because it made the Christ child come alive in ways that I don’t normally think about. In tribute to the story of the birth of Christ, the verse for tonight comes from Luke 2:4-7, “So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.”
My encouragement tonight is to affirm that Jesus took on the mantle of humanity and gave up the prerogatives of His divinity to dwell among us as a fellow human – while remaining fully divine. My prayer is that this Christmas you will remember the birth of the Savior and the reality of His presence among us. Because He was there in the beginning and will be there with us through eternity. Happy Birthday, Jesus……