Happy Birthday Jesus
By Guy Shepherd

I’ve always wondered what it would have been like to have a play date with Jesus.  If Jesus was Guy’s friend, the miracle at Cana would have been a weekend occurrence.   

Happy Birthday Jesus


Guy's on the slippery slope...

...first, no Easter Bunny. Then the unspeakable Christmas truth.

Christianity is going strongest, we’re told, in parts of Africa, Asia, and Latin America. This multiculturism is nothing new. It is a faith with a Jewish founder spread in the Greek language on Roman roads.

It’s a passion play in three acts.

Act I: ”In the beginning was the Word,” as it says in the Gospel of John. This references the Word of God taking human form and coming into world the same way we all do—and in this case followed by relative silence for 30 years.

(I’ve always wondered what it would have been like to hang out with young Jesus?  If Jesus was Guy’s friend, the miracle at Cana would have been a weekend occurrence.)

Act II: A three-year public engagement starting at age 30 years produces standing-room-only crowds across the country, with an occasional healing thrown in, culminating in a conflict with the reigning religious and political powers that ends in a state-ordered execution.

Act III—The Resurrection: “He is Risen”—and in doing, so might we. The Gospel of Luke tells us that the life that began in a peaceful manger ended violently on the Cross, all of it given meaning by the good news of a rolled stone.

Santa Clause displacing Baby Jesus’ birthday never really bothered me. I always found the exhortation to be “Perfect as the Lord is Perfect” particularly daunting. The examples of the saints of the Church are a set of high bars as well. St. Nick—a kindler gentler, forgiving gifter is close enough to the three wise men who celebrated the birth of the Christ, setting up the family up with enough gold, frankincense, and myrrh for 30 years off the grid.

Besides, the secularization of the holiday gives those outside the faith a good taste of what Christianity is about. The spirit of Christmas is about love. The downside is excessive commercialization, but hey, we live in a consumer-driven, service economy, and Amazon drivers need to feed their families (and tithe) too.

In the Shepherd household, we started a Christmas Day tradition of having a birthday cake and singing “Happy Birthday Baby Jesus.” (And yes, we eventually introduced the Ricky Bobby dialogue). We also use the gifts of the Magi to limit and manage our kids’ expectations of a wrapped-gift orgy.

I never kept track of exactly when my kids stopped believing in Santa Clause. One day, we were sitting on our front porch and the subject of Santa came up and I inadvertently let it slip in front of my daughter. Her eyes went full Bambi and welled with tears and ran up to her bed crying inconsolably. Mrs. Shepherd looked at me like I was the Grinch and said, “You made the mess; go clean it up.”

I went up to her room, sat on her bed and put my hand on he back as my baby girl was crying. She turns to me angrily and says:

“How much of what you have hold me—and I believe— is not true?”

Before I could open my mouth, she went big: “Is God real?”

(Oh fudge!—a lot rests in getting this right.)

“My love, I believe in God. Not everybody does, but I do so sincerely and for my own sake. I hope the same for you. Don’t let this kill it.”

Honey, this is why we sang “Happy Birthday Baby Jesus” every Christmas. For this very day.

Also, my love, Easter is the Big Show, The Reveal. And while we are being honest, the Easter Bunny is not real either”—to which she said: “I figured that out a while ago.”

We were cool. Thank God for those birthday cakes.