Happy Birthday Jesus!

“Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.” Colossians 3:16 NIV
The snow was falling and the Christmas lights were sparkling on our tree.  My father had recently passed away, and my mother had come to spend Christmas with us so that her days would not feel so empty.  And our home was anything but empty those days.  We had just started homeschooling our 9 and 11 year old, and our 16 year old was busy working his first job. In spite of the busyness, there were days that I felt I just wanted to skip the Holidays that year. How could I find the joy that I knew belonged with Christmas?  I found myself going through the motions, and asking the Lord to keep me standing when I felt like collapsing.
Yet even in our grief we tried to hold onto some of our family traditions. One of the constants that we maintained was our nightly gathering around the Christmas tree. Ever since our older son was a baby we had tried to find the time, no matter what else was going on, to sing at least one Christmas Carol together before our evening family prayers.  Sometimes it would be a fun carol, “We Wish You a Merry Christmas,” sometimes a traditional hymn, “Silent Night,” or even our own simply created, “Happy Birthday, Jesus, We Have a Merry Christmas Tree.”  It was a moment of peace in the midst of hectic days. 

That year however, our older son was testing his wings, and enjoying his new-found freedom of “working in the real world.”  On one evening his teenage friends had gathered in his basement room, playing their video games and laughing over their own private jokes.  Something stirred within me that particular night to call down the stairs inviting the “big boys” to join us for Carol time.  I was as surprised as my husband when they came and sat on the couch next to my Mom.  Of course it was the time that someone chose our homemade simple song. My cheeks burned with embarrassment as I led in singing what felt silly to me that night.  But as I turned my head, and opened my eyes, there sat our son and his friend, singing along with us, learning our family’s personal anthem to the Lord.

Only moments before I had felt so empty and dark, consumed with the grief of missing one that we all loved so dearly, yet now I felt tears running down my face.  The Father who had sent His own dear Son to this darkened world, was well acquainted with what grieving felt like.  And He knew how to send JOY into the middle of my grief that day:  by sending the love and open hearts of teenage boys who weren’t too “big” to share their hearts with us.

Those same boys had many hard years of walking the path of the prodigal still ahead of them.  But the heart of loving Jesus was planted deep within them, and He would watch over them through those hard days, until the time was full for their return. He came for me in my grief that year, and He came for them, to plant the truth of His coming in the soil of their hearts.

The words to our simple song:

“Happy Birthday Jesus,

We have a Merry Christmas Tree,

Happy Birthday Jesus

We love you.


Happy Birthday Jesus,

Thank You for comin’

Happy Birthday Jesus,

We love you!”


(This post was originally shared with “The Beloved Prodigal” Community.)
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