The Blessing of “Hiccup Moments”~

To chose to laugh when things don’t go exactly the way we plan is a valuable skill to learn–especially when it involves what I like to refer to as, “hiccup moments.”* I experienced such a moment last week, and every time I think of it I still find myself with a cheesy grin on my face!  Here’s what happened:

I was attending my Bible study’s special Christmas Luncheon with about ninety women and 40+ children.  Prior to coming together for lunch the children sang several Christmas songs for the adult class, concluding the program with a rousing rendition of “Go Tell It On The Mountain” (one of my personal favorites.)  Their performance was loud and heartfelt, putting us all in an especially festive mood as we went into the multipurpose room for lunch.

One of the contributions I offer to the yearly Christmas Luncheon is a Birthday Cake for Jesus.  It takes a bit of planning and preparation but it serves as a beautiful reminder of the true meaning of Christmas:

Birthday Cake for Jesus

One cake iced with white icing.
Washable plastic holly or other greenery to go around the cake
21 red birthday candles (hard to find but worth the effort)
Any other relevant addition you have that tells part of the Christmas Story–I have a plastic star and a small baby in a manger I place in the middle.

This was the second year that the children were part of the luncheon (in previous years they had their own party) so they eagerly gathered around as I started lighting the candles.  I had planned to have some of the older kids light the candles as I talked about what each part of the cake symbolized.  However, I only had one of those lighter wands so I decided to light the candles myself, as quickly as I could, while talking about:

The white icing ~ Represents the Purity of Christ
The greenery ~ Represents Life Everlasting for all who trust in Jesus
The 21 red birthday candles ~ Remind us of the Royalty of Christ and the Twenty-One Centuries that have passed since Jesus walked on the earth 

Well, the candle lighting went more slowly than I planned and when I had about 12 of them lit I realized the lighter wand was running out of gas.  I grabbed one of the lit candles and asked a couple of the older kids to do the same on the other side of the cake to finish lighting them all.  I was down to the last candle when I noticed the littlest children in front of the cake were looking at me with slightly worried expressions on their faces.  I glanced down to see that one of the silk pieces of holly decorating the front of the cake had caught fire (hence the requirement for plastic that isn’t so flammable!)  I quickly tried to blow out the growing flames of the holly (as did several of the children) and suddenly it got very quiet in the room . . . the candles were all blown out and the cake was, quite dramatically splattered with the red candle wax across the top!

The children looked at me wide-eyed and stunned as I surveyed the damaged cake with lopsided candles that were too melted down to re-light.  I swallowed hard, and in the next moment found myself laughing as I heard these words come out of my mouth:  “Normally the candles would stay lit as we sang, ‘Silent Night’ and then ‘Happy Birthday to Jesus.’  Today we are going to use our imaginations as we think about Jesus as the Light of the world and sing our songs to Him.”  And that is exactly what we did!

Reflecting back, the memory of what Christ did was not lost, if anything, I think the messiness made it all the more precious.  The Christ Child was born in a barn filled with hay and smelly animals to parents who were tired and doing the best they could. There were no red candles, no greenery surrounding the feeding trough that held the baby.  Even so, it was an evening of divine mystery that caused the heavens to open up as angels sang and shepherds left their flocks to see the newborn King.

Silent night, holy night, all is calm, all is bright
   round yon virgin mother and Child.
Holy Infant, so tender and mild,
   sleep in heavenly peace,
   sleep in heavenly peace.
Silent night, holy night, shepherds quake at the sight;
   glories stream from heaven afar,
   heavenly hosts sing Alleluia!
Christ the Savior is born,
Christ the Savior is born!

I have probably made forty or fifty Birthday Cakes for Jesus and have enjoyed the wonder of family, friends and strangers gathered to sing and savor those wondrous moments.  Yet for me, seeing the worried looks of those little children turn to wonder as we sang, was the best reminder of God’s Perfect Plan of Redemption.   Sometimes we have good intentions and get upset when our ideas do not pan out.  What I am learning is that there are times when we take ourselves too seriously . . . that blessing abounds in those “hiccup moments” as we learn to trust God more.

All to His Glory!

*A “hiccup moment” can be determined by answering the following question: “In the light of eternity, how big is this?”  If the answer is, that it is truly not all that important, then that can be referred to as a “hiccup moment.”

A God of Celebration . . .

One of the things I love about God is that He is a God of celebration.  I marvel at all the ways God prescribed creative and meaningful celebration for the Israelites during their forty year wilderness treck.  (Check out Exodus after the holidays to see for yourself.)  Celebration in the Bible served to remind God’s people and future generations of His faithfulness.  I suppose that was the motivation behind writing “De-Schlucking” Christmas: Focus on HOPE!    To “de-schluck” Christmas is really an effort to simplify and creatively bring out the true meaning of the celebration of Christ’s birth.  I found that in my “de-schlucking” effort the process was very personal.  Were you to come to my home you would see some rather oddball things displayed–like a palm tree and a red apple on my Christmas tree.  This is where the personal part comes in, because those things serve as reminders of God’s kindness to us in the past.  That is why no one should ever attempt to “de-schluck” someone else’s celebration– it’s personal!

For me, the most meaningful celebration in our family takes place after our Christmas Day dinner.   The meal varies (I think we are eating Caribbean this year) but dessert is always the same:  Birthday Cake for Jesus.  Now I can see many of you rolling your eyes with disappointment at the suggestion of a “schlucky” birthday cake as the grand finale of your Christmas dinner.  Just hear me out!

~ BIRTHDAY CAKE FOR JESUS ~

  • Any size or shape cake frosted with white icing  (White Icing represents the Purity of Christ)
  • 20 red birthday candles  (Serve to remind us of the twenty centuries that have passed since Jesus was born, the red stands for His royalty and, of course, when lit we are reminded that He is the Light of the world.)
  • Washable greenery such as holly or evergreens to put around the sides of the cake (Reminds us of Life Everlasting that is promised to all who look to Him as Lord and Savior.)
  • Anything else that serve as a reminder of the Christmas Story

As we light the candles we review the meanings of the white icing, the twenty red candles and the greenery.  Once the candles are all lit we sing Silent Night and then Happy Birthday Jesus.  I have enjoyed sharing this tradition with many groups, young and old.  My favorite was after caroling in our village while living in England.  The tradition in the village was to serve oxtail soup (a hearty finish after being out so long in the cold.)   When we brought out the cake and made the presentation they all loved it.  When I think of that night, I still have to smile . . . .

Do you have a tradition that holds special meaning for you at Christmas?  Please share so it can be passed on . . .

All to His Glory!