Robert Hitt Neil, Syndicated columnist
The Picayune Item
A friend of mine who keeps up with such things declared right after the Thanksgiving weekend that he didn’t see why all these folks were shopping themselves to death right now, since some dude in a jungle centuries ago had given us an ironclad prediction that the world was going to end before Christmas 2012.
“Well, if the world is going to end pretty soon, why not send a nice card to the folks who have enriched your life here on Earth, and maybe get a little memento for that special group of a few dozen who have been family as well as friends, even if that doesn’t particularly mean blood-kin,” was my observation. “Why save your money, if the world’s ending this month?”
Then it hit me: my own birthday is this month! No birthday presents?
This has been a sore spot for me all my life: my birthday is just a few days before Christmas, and grown-ups have forever bent down and proclaimed, “Bob, the cotton crop was a little short this year, so we’re only going to get you one gift, but it’s for birthday AND Christmas, we want you to understand.”
I had a sister whose birthday was right after New Years: she would just quietly make out a really long Christmas list, knowing that whatever she didn’t get for Christmas, she’d get for her birthday!
Maybe that’s why I’m like I am.
So, while I don’t make a big deal of it, I do covet my birthdays, and I have learned as I have matured in those years that the secret to long life is in having birthdays! It’s directly proportional: the more you have, the longer you live. It ain’t eating rare meat or green lettuce or drinking a glass of red wine a day or eating anchovies on your pizza — what makes the difference in having a long life is having more birthdays. Now the world was going to end before I had another?
Well, my friend knew and I knew that the dude in the jungle centuries ago was probably a fiction writer who got carried away and put down an actual concrete date in his last novel (his own world ended before the publication), which some reader centuries later could wrap his mind around and proclaim that we’re all gonna hit the wall at the same time this month. Deep down in my heart, I knew that my birthday was safe, although at that particular time there was some reason to doubt that I might get to celebrate it. As in the Clint Eastwood movie, this malaria has “turned me every which-a way but loose.” Yet I seem to have turned the corner on it and am regaining ground toward that goal.
There’s another Birthday this month that we don’t want to miss, right after mine. In church tonight, Marie sang “Happy Birthday, Jesus,” and it was such a sweet simple blessing to the whole congregation. Jesus has a Birthday, and there are lots of prophecies predicting His birth, as well as His death to redeem mankind, and His Return one day — more sooner than later — to gather His people to Him, then reign here on Earth, as well as fight a Final War against Evil. You REALLY don’t want to miss that one, and you ain’t even got to go wading through a snake-infested jungle looking for a fragment of some dude’s prediction. It’s in a book that you probably have right in your own house — the Bible. Check it out.
At a kid’s birthday party this past weekend, I was called upon, as senior storyteller present, to don my red shirt and Santa hat and read a story about the first time in a thousand years that Santa decided to take a vacation: No Christmas: Canceled for This Year. But the boys and girls of the world actually decided that Santa deserved a vacation once every ten centuries, and enthusiastically planned a Special Christmas Celebration for Santa, who was touched and made his ride.
When I finished reading, one of the little girls at the front table called out, “And do you know why we have Christmas this month? It’s Jesus’ Birthday!!!”
From the mouth of babes…. Merry Christmas and Happy Birthday, Jesus!