“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness,
but will have the light of life.”
It was an honest query asked by a young mom over lunch last week, “How can I help my three-year-old understand the importance of Jesus in Christmas?” that got me thinking. Almost immediately, I found myself back four decades, to when I pondered the very same question as Christmas approached in 1978. Until that time, Christmas in our household had been about the excitement of Santa Claus and the exchange of presents. But there came a radical shift in my mind and heart when I surrendered my life to Jesus the previous spring–trusting Him to make changes in me that I had not been able to accomplish on my own. Gradually, He worked a miracle of change in me through the teachings of Scripture and the influence of other Christians (among them, Corrie Ten Boom’s story told in The Hiding Place).
The dilemma I faced as Christmas approached that year, was a desire to bring the Birth of Jesus centerstage in our family celebration. The question I wrestled with had to do with my little girls, Kara and Amy: Would it be necessary to kill off the fun of Santa Claus for them? It was a serious question for me, because I knew how much the idea of Santa coming and finding presents from him on Christmas morning meant to them. Adding to my hesitation, was remembering the moment I was told there was no Santa. I was 10 or 11 and outwardly, I didn’t allow my feelings to show–but inwardly . . . it was a devastating shock!
As Christmas approached, I asked other Christian friends about how they handled the “Santa question”–opinions were varied. Meanwhile, I did what I could. I found a small plastic nativity set my girls could play with. I cut a piece of green felt in an oval, where Mary, Joseph, the baby Jesus, a manger, some wisemen, an angel, a cow and a donkey (both lying down) could be arranged in countless ways. This I kept on a low shelf or table so they could play with it throughout the Season.
The answer to my dilemma came unexpectedly when a woman named Phyllis Barrett shared her idea of bringing the meaning and miracle of Christ’s coming into her home with a special Birthday Cake for Jesus.
It’s beauty and the reminders of how Hope arrived with the birth of God’s Son, served our family well that long ago Christmas
and has continued all these decades later.*
Essentials needed for the Birthday Cake for Jesus:
- One cake iced with white icing. (I typically make an angel food cake; but you can use whatever kind of cake you like.)
- Plastic or silk holly with red berries (washable) to decorate around the bottom edge of the cake.
- 21 RED birthday candles. (They can be difficult to find but are worth the effort. I found mine at a local party store this year, but they also offer them online.)
Over the years I added a gold star that lays flat on the center of the cake (it was originally a package ornament) and the baby Jesus lying in a manger–was part of the nativity set I purchased for my girls.
The idea is to keep it simple, as you bring Christ’s Birth centerstage
through this meaningful remembrance
of God’s Greatest Gift to all mankind.
For our family, the cake is usually decorated (but not lit) placed as the centerpiece on the dining room table when we gather for Christmas dinner. When it’s time for dessert, we take the cake to the kitchen–myself and another helper to light all those candles! Then, after the lights in the dining room are turned down low–everyone starts to sing Silent Night as we slowly return the now glowing cake to the center of the table. When everything is quiet I begin to ask about the meanings represented on the cake:
- THE WHITE ICING — represents the PURITY OF CHRIST.
- THE HOLLY – the greenery reminds us that through Jesus we have LIFE EVERLASTING; the red berries remind us of the SACRIFICE OF CHRIST–making possible the salvation of all who trust in Him.
- THE 21 RED CANDLES – represent (1) the ROYALTY OF CHRIST, (2) THE 21 CENTURIES that have passed since He came and (3) THE LIT CANDLES remind us that JESUS IS THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD..
As we reflect on the meanings of the cake my husband reads a portion of the Christmas Story. This year we are going to read from the Gospel of Luke:
“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch
over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them,
and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.
But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news
that will cause great joy for all the people.
Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you;
He is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you:
You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.’
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel,
praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom His favor rests.’”
After reading the Story we join together and sing the traditional “Happy Birthday” to Jesus and then blow (or fan) out the candles.
My hope in sharing this with you, is to pass on the blessing this simple means of celebration has bestowed on our family and friends over the course of many years.
May God bless you richly,
as you celebrate the meaning and hope that is ours
in the Birth of our Lord Jesus!
All to His Glory!
*And what about Santa Claus? In the end, we didn’t kill Santa. Instead, we allowed the fun of Santa to remain part of our celebration as the drama and meaning of Christ’s coming–as represented by the cake–came naturally to reign supreme in our Celebration of His Birth. He is faithful!