It sounds weird, right, but it actually made perfect sense.
Like many churches, we remember and celebrate birthdays our services. Everyone gets a card on the Sunday before their birthday and we pray for them. The children who want us to also have a special birthday song sung to them (don’t worry, the whole church sings it, not just me!)
Malachi had his birthday coming up and unfortunately it got missed the Sunday beforehand :(. On the Sunday afterwards I had Malachi’s card and really wanted to make sure we mentioned it and that he got the birthday song. We have the birthday bit at different points in the service and on this occasion it was very near the beginning and unfortunately Malachi hadn’t arrived when we did it and so I said to everyone that I would give him his card just before he went to Sunday school.
A bit of background will help here.
On Sunday mornings in church, the person who is leading will often have a very full mind. I am often getting ready to lead the service and have spent time preparing so that I have everything clear (or as clear as it gets anyway) in my head. It’s at this point in the short time before we start that the bombardment of questions and suggestions begins. People usually start asking me about aspects of church life,
‘What are we going to do about …?’
‘When are we going to convert the baptistery into a Jacuzzi?’
(Sounds a great idea doesn’t it, I’m just waiting for someone to suggest it)
‘Did you manage to …?’
‘Could you mention about … in the notices? ‘
When this happened, the very clear and carefully prepared service can get diluted by all these whats, whens, did and could yous. My head is often spinning at the beginning of a service (don’t worry, I’m being metaphorical) and so it is easy to forget these last minute mentions and requests.
So back to Malachi. I knew there was a chance that I would forget to give him his card before he joined the stampede heading for Sunday school and so I suggested that everyone should shout MALACHI at me just in case I forgot.
What made the moment really funny and special was the enthusiasm with which everyone shouted Malachi at me. We are pretty informal at Orchard and we like to laugh together and this was certainly one of those occasions.
It was wonderful to have the reminder of the good news and celebration and this was a wonderful picture of the good news that we have found in knowing Jesus.
I wonder if we want to share this good news about Jesus, such as his forgiveness and the new life that he offers, with that same enthusiasm?
I apologised to Malachi for forgetting his birthday and we had a little chat about how it had gone and what his favourite bit of the day was. He is a young, pre school child and he always provides good entertainment when he takes part at the front. We were having a lovely and fun chat and then it happened. I don’t know if I had a rush of blood or if my head was spinning too much (yes, I am still being metaphorical), but I asked him,
Do you forgive me?
He looked at me and said yes. There was no question, no hesitation. Just a yes.
As the congregations gave one of the loudest ‘awws’ that I have ever heard, I paused and remembered Jesus’ words,
I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it. (Mark 10.15)
Children can be so forgiving and loving and we really have a lot to learn from them.
I was talking with the person who manages our birthdays list and it has just dawned on her that the people who have started coming along in the past few weeks to church aren’t on our birthday list. It is always encouraging when a family grows and we want to make these families feel welcome in our church family by helping to celebrate their birthdays.
Christians have so much to celebrate. Let’s be enthusiastic about all that God has done for us.