We’ve had a bunch of them lately at our house. Birthdays, anniversaries, and such. Each day is special. “This is the day the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it” (Ps. 118:24).
True, days of pain, illness, and loneliness are not so special. Job was so bad off he cursed the day of his birth (3:1). But the majority of us celebrate birthdays. The most popular song in the world is “Happy Birthday.” Birthdays and anniversaries sometimes make their way into The Banner if you’ve had many of them. Methuselah, grandfather of Noah, had 969 candles on his cake.
Hallmark and other companies have turned birthday and other kinds of cards into a billion-dollar industry. Some cards are religious. Most are not. Quite a few are dirty. A commentary on our culture.
I remember Valentine’s Day when I was a boy. We brought our cards to school. I was too shy to give any to girls. The teacher distributed them. The popular kids received the most. Erma, poor and backward, got none. Teacher always had some extras so Erma wouldn’t be without. Hugo always got the most and bragged about it. I hated Hugo.
But outselling valentines by far are Christmas cards. Many people spend frantic evenings in mid-December looking up addresses and licking stamps to beat the deadline. At the end of the season, I always buy next year’s supply. I begin addressing them, a few at a time, each day in mid-September. Mid-November sees them all done. I wonder what it will be like in future years when even now the word Christmas is being phased out. Another commentary on our times. Meanwhile, I will enjoy sending and receiving the cards.
Speaking of enjoyment reminds me of the late Rev. Henry Beets, one of our denomination’s icons of a few generations ago and the first editor of The Banner. Appalled by all the monies the members of his congregation lavished on Christmas cards and presents, one Sunday morning in early November, he decreed from the pulpit that all would forgo Christmas cards and presents for the forthcoming holiday season. All the monies saved would go for missions. Perhaps some disobeyed. In secret. But most, persuaded or intimidated, cooperated. The result was a considerable sum given to missions. Rev. Beets called it “a goodly amount.”
The following year the members of the congregation expected their pastor to promote the previous year’s innovation. But Rev. Beets, whose devotion to his Lord and church and missions was unquestioned, surprised them all. He said the previous Christmas had been such a dull affair, especially for the children, but himself as well, that he recommended all to go back to giving presents as before. In moderation, of course. I have always considered that a very human and delicious story.
Over the years some of our special days have begun to fade. Combining Washington’s and Lincoln’s birthdays—both occurring in the same month—was, I think, a good idea for the U.S. In my earlier years in the ministry, we went to church on both Old Year’s night and New Year’s morning. Although the practice still survives here and there, I consider it to be too much of a good thing. Half the congregation is asleep at the morning service. On the other hand, the diminishing observance of our denominational Day of Prayer and Ascension Day makes me sad. I would rather see Columbus Day in the United States of America disappear—when all the banks are closed. But there is one special day that I hope will never fade.
It began in response to the greatest headline in all of human history: “He Arose!”