Over the years at a few birthday parties my girls have been invited to, the guest of honor made the unusual in my opinion) decision to postpone opening the gifts until after the party was over and everyone had gone home. (Thinking back, it is possible that this decision may have come at the urging of wellmeaning but over-protective parents.) I have to admit, this was a very different tradition than I was used to. As a child, at my birthday parties – as well as at every party I was invited to – the highlight was tearing into the gifts with everyone watching. Most of the time, my friends watched with nearly as much excitement as I had.
When the parents of the birthday girl explained the reason for putting off giftopening until after the party was over, the answer was typically that it would spare any potential embarrassment for a friend who didn’t bring a gift, or any hurt feelings in case their daughter didn’t really like a particular gift. Besides, the thank-you notes would make sure everyone who did bring a gift was properly acknowledged.
I don’t know how prevalent this particular birthday party tradition has become, but it will not gain a following in at least one household. I enjoy watching my girls open birthday gifts with their friends all watching, laughing and sharing. No one invited to a party has ever come without a gift, and all the children seem to enjoy watching the wrapping paper get torn to shreds in anticipation of something they brought for the guest of honor. Even in the case of a duplicate, there is laughter and the understanding of the ease of exchanging it for something else. Hurt feelings? Potential embarrassment? A concern, perhaps, of the parents, but not from the children.
It is very natural to want to share good experiences with friends: a great movie, a concert or a simple dinner at home. When shared with friends, these experiences create good memories, and strengthen the bonds of friendship.
One area of sharing, however, that may be in real danger of being lost on this generation is that of religious faith. It has become for many, slowly but surely, a taboo subject not appropriate for casual conversation, even among friends, and even among friends of similar faith. Among the variety of possible reasons, I believe one follows the same reasoning as postponing giftopening until after the guests have gone home: the fear of hurt feelings or potential embarrassment. Do we feel the fear or guilt that might result by speaking openly of our faith (or lack of faith) that may come across on the one hand as spiritually inadequate or, on the other, with a “holier-than-thou” attitude? Isn’t it better not to take the risk, and avoid the subject altogether?
The unfortunate consequences of this philosophy are lost opportunities to share, among friends, honest and deeply held feelings of spirituality. This is precisely the value of good friendship; not being afraid to speak your mind even on subjects as personal as religious faith. Nobody wants to hear that their faith is weak or to hear their beliefs demeaned; but the point of sharing is not to convince or to disparage, it is simply to share, to uplift and encourage. Just like wanting to share the experience of receiving or giving a gift, when we feel the joy of Christian faith, it is natural to want to share this with others. Of course, not everyone will have similar feelings on the subject. Some will be willing to listen and share, others might not be able to relate, while others might have a desire to learn more.
This is how the apostles began sharing the good news of the resurrection of Christ. Their joy over seeing the risen Lord was too powerful to want to keep it to themselves. They wanted to share this with others. Not everyone wanted to hear it, and some didn’t believe it. But many did, and many others wanted to learn more.
Let’s remember the joy of the women who first found the empty tomb, the disbelief and then the firm conviction of the apostles, and their desire to share the joy of the good news over and over again. It is natural, encouraging and strengthening to want to share good news with others.
Is it any wonder we proclaim and sing “Christ is risen” so often during the Easter season? It’s not just a catchy phrase or slogan: it is the foundation of Christian faith, and the love and the power of God.
May this celebration of the resurrection of our loving Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, our Easter celebration, the Holy Pascha, be a source of joy for each of you; a joy that moves you to share this good news without fear or hesitation.
Christ is Risen! Truly He is Risen!