• Ross Moughtin

When your birthday is overwhelmed by Christmas

TODAY IS MY BIRTHDAY! There are, of course, some advantages of having your birthday so close to 25 December. As a child I particularly prized the fact that I would never have to go to school on this my special day. Remember, I went to primary school during the 1950’s when school was not meant to be fun. No Happy Birthday hat at St Nicks’. And as an adult the big bonus is that my loving family – should they remember – can buy my presents in the sales, giving more bang to their buck. But sadly it is not a very big bang when compared to the massive boom of Christmas Day. And that’s the burden those of us born close to Christmas have to carry throughout our lives. People just forget. They may even know that my big day is 29 December but everyone is disorientated during the week between Christmas and New Year. Out of your familiar routine I bet you didn’t even realise that today is a Friday until this blog unexpectedly appeared in your inbox. And then family and friends tend to be destitute having spent a small fortune on Christmas Day, both presents and parties. Not much money left. Energy deficient. Which leads me to my biggest bête noire. Even as I type these words I can see my tears landing on my keyboard as I feel the psychological damage which has accrued over the years. Those people – usually aunties - even with a kind smile as if they are giving me a special treat, saying “Ross, I’m giving you an extra big present this year. I’m combining your Christmas and birthday presents.” So as my birthday arrives just four days later I am gift bereft. Even as a child I could see through this deception. It would have been kinder simply to say: “Ross, we’re broke. But don’t worry, we will make it up to you and we will buy you an even bigger present – should we remember.” But life, as my family often hear me say, is tough. And having a Christmas birthday has toughened me up over the years. However, birthdays are important for all kinds of reasons, not least affirming each other on our special day. And more, to celebrate the sheer gift of life. For we are more than a mere carbon-based lifeform composed mainly of water.

Oxygen, carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, calcium, and phosphorus may make up 99% of me but of course I am much, much more. We all know that - whatever reductionists like Richard Dawkins may say. He’s okay – he was born in March. So we read in Genesis 2:7 “the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life.” This breath of life, this Spirit of God, makes me infinitely more than just a collection of chemicals, of atoms formed from the elementary particles derived from the pure energy released from the Big Bang 13.8 billion birthdays ago. Some how or other - God knows how - these atoms eventually had the privilege of becoming me, made in the image of God himself. Even as a child I have marvelled at this sense self-consciousness, of being aware of being me. As physician Charles Krauthammer reflects: “Life and consciousness are the two great mysteries. Actually, their substrates are the inanimate. And how do you get from neurons shooting around in the brain to the thought that pops up in your head and mine?” He continues: “There's something deeply mysterious about that. And if you're not struck by the mystery, I think you haven't thought about it.” Certainly King David thought about it. “For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” Psalm 139:13f) Fearfully, because there is something awesome of being alive, above all about being able to respond in love and trust to the God who made us. And more, to the God – such is his love - who deigned to come among us as one of us so that through the cross of Jesus as the apostle Peter writes, “we may become participants in the divine nature.” (2 Peter 1:4). As a human being I am not sure what becoming a participant in the divine nature means except that it means something wonderful, something worth celebrating. For you gave me a heart And you gave me a smile, You gave me Jesus And you made me your child, And I just thank you, Father, For making me 'me'.

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