Memo: Regarding my birthday
I’m reposting this post from a year ago because I need to remember a few of these right now and because I’ve had requests to repost it around this time annually.
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.