A Journey to the Manger 

Born out of disappointment...

Operation Birthday Celebration 



“Mom, it just isn’t fair,” said the disappointed voice of my daughter on the phone. “Eric and I have decided we just aren’t going to do the Santa-thing at our house—we want to focus on the true meaning of Christmas.  But from Thanksgiving on, all I hear from other moms and their kids is the fun they’re having with a popular elf character. Everyone’s talking about it and posting pictures of the creative things they’re doing with their elf.”

Truth is, she had a point and it got me thinking that it is a sad day when it appears the secular world is having more “fun” than Christians.  After all, we are created in the image of God, who is the creator of all things.  His creativity flows through us!  Christians should set the standard when it comes to media and the arts--and it is our responsibility to shed light on the true meaning of the season. So why can’t we find a guilt-free way to incorporate fun and wonder into a child’s world through creativity and imagination? 

Staying true to their convictions, Kim and Eric chose not to facilitate make-believe in Santa Claus and to teach their young children to focus on the birth of Jesus—the reason for celebrating Christmas.  Before our conversation ended, wheels began spinning and an exciting idea took shape. Operation Birthday Celebration was conceived to bring a special dimension to holiday fun for young children and parents desiring a biblical alternative to secular holiday characters.

In a span of two weeks I finished writing the story and printed a home-made copy of the book using clipart and photos—just in time for Kim to implement the project December 1, 2011. The original character dolls were a country-primitive lamb and a plush snowman recycled into a little shepherd-drummer boy.  Kim read the story to the boys, Beckham (three years old) and Weston (six months). Later that evening she and Beckham answered a knock at the door and discovered two visitors—drummer boy, Jesse, and his lamb, Bongo. Throughout the month Kim and Eric led the children in fun activities, building anticipation for the best birthday celebration ever.  I loved the pictures they sent me!

Creative scenarios sent Bongo scurrying off during the night. In the morning, Beckham and Weston found the adventuresome little lamb in a different setting than they had placed him the night before. Beckham helped Jesse find his lamb, whose antics led to an activity or conversation about the true meaning of Christmas. On December 25, Bongo and Jesse were found at the family’s manger/nativity with birthday preparations, prompting the family’s enthusiastic celebration of Jesus’ birth.

Operation Birthday Celebration made a strong impression on young Beckham. The following year as Christmas approached, he asked his mom, “Is that little guy going to visit us again?”

“Little guy?” questioned Kim.

“Yeah, you know, the one with the lamb.”

“Oh, you mean Jesse and Bongo!”  

The next year when the children in Beckham’s kindergarten class talked about their elves, Beckham raised his hand to tell the teacher that “Jesse and Bongo” visit his house!

Operation Birthday Celebration allows young children to employ their imagination in a way that focuses on truth rather than fantasy. It allows families to be creative and intentional during a busy and hectic time of year.  It helps build memories and traditions but most of all, it glorifies our marvelous Creator.