Well, in several hours, I will celebrate another birthday – my 60th. Normally, I don’t get too amped up about birthdays – they come and they go. Generally, they are a time for reflection and I am a little somber. Not sad, mind you – but somber. For some reason, I think of my parents each February 19th. I guess that I go back to my childhood and re-live the birthdays of yesteryear. The gifts, and parties – having friends over and the family making a big production about my special day. Of course, we did the same thing for each of my brothers as well. We all enjoyed our annual celebrations.
As the years roll along, my thoughts on birthdays have changed. Gradually, as I have aged, I have watched our children grow up and now Janet and I have grandchildren older than I was when I had some of my most memorable celebrations. Rather than being the center of attention, some years it has felt that there really wasn’t anything special about the day. Either I was really working hard, or people were busy and birthdays took a back seat to the other events of our lives.
The last time I remember a really big birthday was when I turned forty and Janet whisked me to Grand Cayman for a short trip. It happened to be during the filming of the movie “The Firm” and we saw Tom Cruise and Gene Hackman – they stayed in the same hotel. I’m sure that we did something grand for my 50th as well, but neither Janet or I can remember it. After all, I was deep in seminary at the time and I was all about study. Come to think of it, maybe it wasn’t so grand after all. And thirty, thirty was a tough one. Having just moved to Indiana, we were struggling and there wasn’t much to celebrate.
But this year – this year is different. For starters, last evening, Sunday, we held a pre-birthday party at Jonathan Byrd’s Cafeteria. We reserved a room and had the entire local family, as well as Janet’s sister, Nancy, and our niece, Emily, from Williamsburg. Ginny Byrd, owner of the cafeteria, as well as Susan and Pat, who we consider family, were also there. I think there were eighteen of us in total. And rather than run through the cafeteria line, or have a buffet line in the room, my friends at Byrd’s arranged for a family style dinner. Boy, did that bring back memories.
And it was a terrific idea. It really seemed to reinforce the idea of family and all that it brought to mind. In the end, family is what it is really about. The kids, and their kids, were everywhere. And they were well behaved… something that I have learned to not take for granted. The employees in the bakery even made a cake for me – yellow cake with a buttercream frosting – my favorite. For certain, the older I get, the more I cherish the simple things – celebrating with Janet and the kids.
The biggest thing that I have noticed this past year is how my relationships with all the children have changed. Each, in their own way, have had trials and opportunities that Janet and/or I were able to assist with overcoming. And the year has highlighted how different our children are. To see this mix of diverse interests and everyone coming together to celebrate was just great. And the good news is that it isn’t over yet. In just under an hour, my actual birthday begins. Rather than dwell on how soon it will be over, I am going to live in the moment.
Dinner out again tomorrow evening and Jill will be staying here with Drew through the end of the week, so that’s an added bonus. I am reminded of Captain James T, Kirk, of Star Trek fame, at the end of the movie “The Wrath of Khan”, when on his birthday he was recalling the past and the aging process. His friends asked how he felt – to paraphrase him, he responded, “I feel young… and alive…” That’s how I feel tonight. Productive, busy, contributing to society and grateful to God for the blessings that He has bestowed on me.
The verse for tonight highlights the celebratory aspect of throwing a party – perhaps the longest and largest party mentioned in the Bible. King Xerxes, mentioned in the opening verses of the book of Esther, threw a party for 127 provinces in his kingdom. The party lasted more than 6 months, and then he threw another party for an additional week. It is thought more than 2000 people joined in the banquets and festivities for the entire duration. That was some party! We are told, in Esther 1:4-5,”For a full 180 days he displayed the vast wealth of his kingdom and the splendor and glory of his majesty. When these days were over, the king gave a banquet, lasting seven days, in the enclosed garden of the king’s palace, for all the people from the least to the greatest, who were in the citadel of Susa.”
Admittedly, this party was a little over the top. But I am focusing on the fact that in the end, Esther and the king apparently lived happily ever after and everything turned out great for the people of God. That’s what I pray for all of us. That in the end everything turns out for the best and the people of God prevail. My encouragement this evening is to make sure that you spend time to smell the roses and celebrate a little. As I look back on my days, I haven’t done so well in that category. Maybe for the next 60 I should try a little harder to enjoy life along the way. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…