The Jesus Birthday party

Thirty-nine years ago tonight, a wide-eyed, eight year old boy was introduced to a new kind of Jesus.

We had just begun attending a wild-haired hippie church called Redeemer Temple in Denver, Colorado. The Jesus Movement was running full throttle at that time, and the church I attended had its foot on the accelerator. Every week, young men wandered into our worship service wearing jeans and no shirts with their teenage girlfriends following behind them wearing short shorts and halter tops. Many of them gave their hearts to Christ. Sunday nights, we baptized the new Jesus devotees in a baptismal—sometimes needing to drain the water halfway through and refill the tank because the water was so dirty. The hippie converts hadn’t yet heard that cleanliness was next to godliness.

In our church’s youthful exuberance, our leaders decided to throw a Jesus Birthday party on December 23. And, they invited one of the most well-known singers at the time.

In his previous life, Barry McGuire was the star of the Broadway musical Hair and singer-songwriter of the angst-ridden Hippie Movement anthem “Eve of Destruction.” Playing next to him was another man—Paul Clark—who attended my parents’ Bible study and would soon leave our church to tour with Larry Norman, the Jesus Movement’s icon.

But what do I remember most about the evening? A throng of young people worshipping Jesus, celebrating his birth.

Now, I like sentimental Christmas songs, even “holiday” songs that don’t mention Jesus. But sentimentalism isn’t the point of Christmas. Nor is family, food, friends, or chestnuts roasting on an open fire. It’s not about the holiday season, season’s greetings, or yuletide. It‘s not even about giving gifts to each other.

Christmas is about Christ. Essentially, it means throwing a birthday party for Jesus. Somehow on my side of the world, we can easily lose sight of this amidst Christmas busyness, parties, and family celebrations.

So this year I have a request: keep Christ in Christmas. Give presents to your family and friends—but remember to give Jesus the best present of all: your presence.

On coming to the house, [the Magi] saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
Matthew 2:11 (NIV)

If you don’t have plans for celebrating the birth of Jesus on Christmas Eve  and you live in the Denver, Colorado area, please join us at The Neighborhood Church–5:30pm, December 24 in the Dakota Ridge High School auditorium.

Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado with Eugene Scott. He’d love to eat a big piece of birthday cake on Jesus’ birthday.

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10 Comments

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10 responses to “The Jesus Birthday party

  1. Linda

    Now that was a blast from the past…remember singing happy birthday to Jesus? It was so worshipful. Thank you for this wonderful reminder.

  2. Great memory. Thanks for the Christmas e-card, by the way. I can’t believe how your children have grown up and, miraculously, you look the same!

  3. Mike:

    As you know, I was one of those “young men wearing jeans” but I did wear a shirt who wandered into Redeemer Temple, though I believe God was more intentional than my wandering. Even as a godless hippy, I, at least, had heard that godliness was next to cleanliness. Several churches had already told me I needed to get cleaned up (inside and out) in order to worship with them. I will always thank God for Redeemer, a congregation that did not require me to cut my hair or change in order for me to become a part of them. Rather they were willing to walk with, at least for a short distance, me while God changed me.

    I too was at The Jesus’ Birthday Party that night. Isn’t it remarkable that you and I worshiped at the same church and even attended this event at the same time. Then God would introduce us as Presbyterian pastors and have us plant a church together. This is no coincidence. God had plans even back then.

    I’m glad to be your partner. Eugene

  4. John Moyer

    TNC has a nice invite “to the birthday” banner out in front of Dakota Ridge High School! It’s in plain view, sticking thru the snow bank!

  5. Georgie-ann

    Last night I managed to “squeeze in” attending our faithful monthly local coffee house open mic, for its Christmas rendition. I had feared I might have to opt out, due to its being so close to Christmas and many other events, but so far this year, the opportunities have been dove-tailing rather nicely. God is good in so many ways. And warmer than usual weather is really helping out beautifully! (“White Christmases” do not come in very high on my list, with all the scheduled “gettin’ around” we usually have to do!)

    I decided to sing again the re-write of lyrics that I made for Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” last year:

    G’s Christmas lyrics to Leonard Cohen’s “HALLELUJAH”

    VS 1: (same as Leonard’s): I heard there was a secret chord,…

    VS 2: When our gaze is fixed upon this life,
    The loss, the fears, the pain and strife,
    Sometimes it’s hard to sing, “Hallelujah!”
    The bitterness infects our mind,
    It turns us hard, it makes us blind,
    Our song becomes an empty “Hallelujah!”

    Hallelujah!,…What’s it to ya?
    Hallelujah!,…Halle-lu-uuu-jah!

    VS 3: We forget that God, our source of life,
    Has come to heal our pain, our strife,
    And leave us singing joyful “Hallelujahs!”
    In the manger, in the hay,
    His Mother laid Him there that day,
    While all the angels sang, “Hallelujah!”

    Hallelujah!,…He’s come to ya,
    Hallelujah!,…Halle-lu-uuu-jah!

    VS 4: Well, David danced before the Lord,
    So, let us sing in one accord,
    And fill the earth with blessed “Hallelujahs!”
    Our God inhabits all our praise,
    And stays with us through all our days,
    While we keep singing grateful “Hallelujahs!”

    Hallelujah!,…He’ll renew ya,
    Hallelujah!,…Halle-lu-uuu-jah!

    (repeat all 3 versions of the chorus for the ending,…)

    Last year I felt compelled to counteract the spirit of his lyrics, used together with our favorite triumphant worship and praise phrase “Hallelujah!”

    I DO dearly love the melody — it’s a great piece of music. These words seemed to fall in place very easily. I just wish I could feel like singing it in more seasons than Christmas!

    This year, let God capture our attention and our hearts! As Michael is saying,…”Rejoice in the Lord (Jesus) always! And again I say, ‘Rejoice!’ ”

    Philippians 4:4 “Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice.”

    Best Christmas wishes to all!

    And “God Bless us everyone!” ~ Tiny Tim Cratchit, (from Charles Dickens, “A Christmas Carol” ~ 1843)

  6. Georgie-ann

    “Merry Christmas! Merry, merry Christmas!” (-:

  7. Merry Christmas, Georgie-ann. Thanks for all your insightful comments.

  8. Glenda Lollis Soper

    Hi, i came across this accidentally while googling Redeemer Temple and just had to say something. I found pastor Lou, who married me there in 78, on facebook and saw that he was still pastor there but that it was now in Arvada. It is the old building that has such sweet memories of my salvation, baptism and several years of fellowship while i attended the old Jesus Center High School near by. Your words brought back so many memories of the Christmases there from 72-78, Barry McGuire, Jesus birthday parties, fabulous worship with friends i will never forget even though i live far away from all of it now. Thanks for the ‘blast for the past’ and memories of some of the best times in my life, Merry Christmas!!

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