Memo: Regarding my birthday
To: Those who celebrate my birth on December 25
Some of you seem kind of stressed out over the wrong things when it comes to celebrating my birthday. Sorry I didn’t give specifics on how to observe my birth in the New Testament but there was so much to cover in a short time and I never imagined it would get so out of hand. So let me give you a few pointers (10 seems like a good number) for how to celebrate my birth in a way that would make me happy.
- It’s not about stuff. Really. Look at how I lived. I wasn’t worried about clothing and material possessions. In fact I specifically told you not to worry about things that can be destroyed by rust and moths, remember? The whole “store up your treasures in heaven” business? I really meant that you know. Trust me. If you’re looking for happiness in material possessions, you will not find it. Teach your children this as well.
- Please don’t stress about “getting everything done in time” and in turn miss that the meaning of my birth is not found in expensive presents, perfect decor and an excessive amount of food and drink. What I really want is for you to remember why I was born and to be hopeful and filled with joy. In fact, why not take a moment, close your eyes, breathe deeply and decide that you are going to let go of the thing that is stressing you the most.
- Figure out how to be of service to at least one person during the holidays. It can be as simple as dropping off some coffee at your local fire station, or writing a note of appreciation to a great teacher or buying lunch for a panhandler. You never know what’s going on in someone’s life. Don’t overthink it. Just do it.
- Don’t go into debt to buy gifts for people. Writing someone a heartfelt note about how much they mean to you is the best gift anyone can receive. Again, it’s not about stuff.
- The best response to any gift, and I mean any gift, is to simply say, “Thank you for remembering me.”
- Stop arguing over the “right” way to greet someone. If you know that someone celebrates Christmas, wishing them a “Merry Christmas!” is great. But if you’re not sure, “Happy Holidays!” is a way to say, “I’m not sure if you celebrate Christmas and want be respectful so I’m going to play it safe and wish you ‘Happy Holidays!'” I know what’s in your heart after all, so don’t worry about not saying “Merry Christmas!” to everyone. Besides, “Happy Holidays!” covers both Christmas and New Year’s so it’s appropriate even among Christians. Seriously. It bums me out when you try to use my birth as an excuse to disrespect other faiths. Knock it off.
- Use my birthday as a chance to forgive someone. Forgiving them doesn’t mean you necessarily want that person in your life or that what they did was OK. It means that you’re not going to be less than you can be because you’re allowing yourself to be filled with bitterness.
- Meet people you care about where they are. If they are struggling, hold their hand. If they are celebrating a success that makes you envious, be genuinely happy for them. Success isn’t a scarce commodity. Their success doesn’t diminish your chances for it. Take the high road.
- As you begin thinking about the New Year and making New Year’s Resolutions, consider the words of David Orr (although this quote is frequently misappropriated to the Dalai Lama): “The plain fact is that the planet does not need more successful people. But it does desperately need more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers, and lovers of every kind. It needs people who live well in their places. It needs people of moral courage willing to join the fight to make the world habitable and humane. And these qualities have little to do with success as we have defined it.”
- I know the holiday season is not always happy for all of you. Those of you who have unhappy family situations, the poor, the sick, the suffering, the lonely, those who feel lost at a time when you’re expected to feel happy, those who have lost a loved one during the year, those who are sad for any reason or who feel empty have a special place in my heart. Be gentle with yourselves and don’t feel an obligation to put on a happy face because it’s Christmas. I know a thing or two about suffering. Lean into it. Ask for help if you need it and know that there’s hope. There’s always hope.
A very timely memo!
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I missed reading this last month. But wow, you hit the nail on the head, Weeks. This is lovely. I am pinning it to my “Christmas” board and will hopefully read it again on the day after Thanksgiving next year.
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I was super proud of this post and surprised that so few people reacted or responded to it. Thanks for letting me know you got it!
You know, my guess would be that many readers were lost in the overwhelming business of the season. But it is a great read any time of year. It was funny because when I read the title, I thought it was about your own birthday! It made me smile when I saw what you were really writing about. It is a great essays. One of the lines I liked best was when reaching out to help others,’don’t overthink it, just do it.‘ I loved that.
Very nice, Weeks. As always, this essay is top notch. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.
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Thank you. I really liked that one.
I just discovered your blog and was skimming through a few posts and came to this one: very good. Wish I would have seen it in early December. I’m going to print a copy and put it in with the special Thanksgiving dinner dishes so I’ll be sure to find it in November! Thanks for sharing.
Even though a few weeks (and Christmas season) has passed since this post, I wanted to share my experience and gratitude for your words. I have to say that both my partner and I were very moved when first reading this post. He immediately wanted to resend to a couple of his family members and I was called upon (at his request) to share your post with my family as we sat down to enjoy our Christmas feast, something I know many don’t have the privilege of. With each item, tears flowed, heads bowed and nodded, sometimes smiles would creep up on somber faces, and you could feel a genuine empathy and afirmation as each was read. Your (Jesus’) message, although so relevant today, will surely ring true in years to come, and we as a family will likely revisit ‘Regarding My Birthday’ every year. You have certainly made a few new fans! Thank you so much for your insight, humor, and wisdom!
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Wow. I don’t even know where to start. I’m humbled that my blog post was read at your family dinner. Just wow. I’m touched that it resonated with your family members and I’m SOOOOOOO happy that you even read it. I have a small readership and I LOVED that post so much, but was disappointed that not many people seem to have read it or commented on it. It’s sometimes hard to put time, energy and thought into blog posts and feel as though they are skimmed over in favor of what some Kardashian wore to some event. So it means a tremendous amount to me when I get a comment like this, which I think is among the kindest and most beautifully written comments I’ve ever received. Ironically, it’s the least heartfelt posts that generate big numbers for us bloggers. 275,000 people read my post on cleaning your sewing machine and a few hundred read this one, which to me was so much more meaningful. So to my small but loyal readership, especially for such an encouraging comment, I send tremendous thanks and appreciation.
As I’m listening to your Bee Buddy interview with Vanessa Wilson, I started clicking on the links and signed up for your blog. As I perused your block posts, I clicked on and read the birthday post. I’ll admit I teared up a little bit while reading it. You hit the nail on the head! It’s very easy to get caught up in the excitement and gift giving of Christmas and just as easily forget what it should be about–and I can be just a guilty. When I was in Maine several years ago with friends, I saw a wall hanging sign with Dr. Seuss’ quote, “Maybe Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store, Maybe Christmas perhaps, means a little bit more.” I put it up for that Christmas, and it hasn’t come down. I keep it there as a year round reminder. Thank you for sharing your “tips” with us! I looks forward to the fall when I can share it with my own kids, friends and family!
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Wonderful! You know that Dr Seuss line is from The Grinch Who Stole Christmas.