Each Wednesday night, our corps hosts a free meal for those needing one, and usually that’s around 110-130 people. It’s a lovely community, and the meal is preceded by a chapel service and followed by social activities and a Bible study, all of which attract different numbers of people.
At the commencement of each meal, we make some announcements, do devotions and say grace, and we also sing happy birthday to whoever is having one. I’m sure we have a few regulars who seem to have a birthday every few months, but we’re happy to give them some attention anyway.
Recently, I was seated at a table with a birthday boy turning 62 and one of the other diners said, with a smile, “Now we get to give you birthday punches”, and he hit him on the shoulder gently. We had a laugh about how he would cope with about 120 people queueing up to give him birthday punches. By my reckoning, that’s nearly 7500 punches!
I’m thinking that if we were hosting our meal back in his day and Methuselah showed up on his 969th birthday, after being sung to he’d possibly receive 116,260 punches. And if each person gave him the obligatory ‘and one for luck’, that would be 116,400 punches. I’d suggest he may not make his next birthday. In fact, he probably wouldn’t even make the next day.
Imagine his birthday cake! Think of a cake with 100 candles on it for someone celebrating their centenary, and now think of a cake with close to ten times that many candles. You’d need to alert the local fire station before you even lit the cake.
What do you give someone for their 969th birthday? Socks? Probably not. Golf clubs? I doubt it. A gym membership? Well, no. You’d need to think of something they haven’t already got. Good luck with that. “Happy birthday, Methuselah, here’s your bellybutton fluff remover.”
Mind you, if Methuselah received gifts from each member of his extended family, he could probably open his own shop anyway; so your chance of finding him something he doesn’t already have grows even slimmer.
The Bible says he had a son, Lamech, and “other sons and daughters” (Genesis 5:26), so that’s at least five children. We also know Lamech had four children and that families, back then, were generally large. So even if we assumed Methuselah’s descendants only lived a mere 100 years or so, he may still have had hundreds and hundreds of descendants at his 969th birthday party. That’s a lot of party pies and fairy bread!
Birthday traditions differ in different cultures around the world. In Lithuania, it’s customary for the person who’s having the birthday to sit in a decorated chair that’s then lifted up by the party guests. The chair is lifted up the number of times matching the age of the person having the birthday.
So we’re lucky Methuselah wasn’t Lithuanian. Imagine him filling up on Coke and cake and party food and ice cream and cheese and dips and lollies, and then being lifted up and down in a chair 969 times. You would NOT want to be one of the people under him in that chair.
Happy birthday for whenever you get to your next one; be grateful that it won’t be your 969th and that you won’t need a defibrillator after blowing out your candles!