Information Photograph by Julie Riddle
Brad Matuzak joins a nativity scene displayed at TriPoint Church of God in Alpena on Thursday.


ALPENA — Born on Dec. 25, Brad Matuzak was, he grew up understanding, his mom’s finest Christmas present ever.

The Alpena-area resident has by no means minded sharing his birthday with Jesus. As an alternative, his birthdate has lengthy instilled in him a way of connectedness to the non secular aspect of life, Matuzak stated.

Positive, he admitted, at one time his youthful self resented getting one current as a substitute of two and lacking out on the eye that may include a birthday not on one of many world’s most acknowledged holidays.

Since his teen years, although, the vacation has been for him considered one of pleasure, centered on one other birthday and the hope that delivery brings, Matuzak stated.

Now an ordained minister who fills pulpits at many native church buildings, Matuzak typically hears feedback about his bushy whitish beard and passing resemblance to a different well-known Christmas character. He hasn’t but donned a Santa Claus costume, however that might occur, Matuzak stated.

Firmly rooted within the Christian connection to Christmas, he nonetheless enjoys its non-Christian trappings, fortunately immersing himself every year in decorations, music, items, films, and different rites of the season.

His household makes certain his birthday shouldn’t be misplaced within the shuffle, setting apart part of every Christmas to have fun him with particular meals and birthday needs.

These celebrations by no means take away the spiritual significance of the vacation and its message of togetherness — anchored within the Christian story of Jesus’ delivery — raised anew every December, Matuzak stated.

“It’s about getting our households and loving on one another,” he stated. “It’s a time to capitalize on making recollections and never letting the time slip away.”

Matuzak’s most memorable birthday got here when he was 15 and awakened on Christmas, or one of many days close to it, to emergency responders in his home.

His dad had suffered a coronary heart assault that landed him within the hospital for 3 weeks, a time that modified Matuzak’s function within the household.

As just a little boy, he embraced the specialness of his Christmas birthday, even feeling a particular “coronary heart connection” to God due to it, he stated.

As he bought older, although, his perspective modified.

“When you’ve gotten a birthday on Christmas, it’s nice till you’re about eleven,” Matuzak stated. He slipped into resentment on the holidays when he seen his birthday items and Christmas items develop into one and the identical – “It’s not two. It’s all the time one.”

For years thereafter, his birthday and the vacation each bought misplaced within the shuffle of him rising up and the turmoil of household dysfunction. In his center teenagers, he struggled emotionally, looking for which means as Christmas approached.

His memorable Christmas birthday, when his father bought sick, meant hospital rooms and a sudden thrust into grownup duties as he turned 16, bought his driver’s license, and have become major driver and caretaker for his household as his dad recovered.

All through that 12 months, inside turmoil led Matuzak to a darkish spot, till, determined to seek out some which means, {the teenager} prayed the one prayer he may consider — a conventional nighttime prayer many mother and father have murmured at their kids’s bedside: “Now I lay me right down to sleep…”

A number of days later, a number of younger males walked into the health club the place Matuzak labored on the entrance desk. They signed up for a membership and walked out, abandoning a non secular tract.

“I assumed they had been nuts,” Matuzak stated.

He threw the tract in a drawer. That evening, he took the tract residence and skim it, praying a prayer it shared.

“It was like the burden of the world got here off of me,” he stated, remembering the second with a smile.

The younger males, after they returned, linked him to his first Bible and taught him about non secular teachings, and, Matuzak stated, “I by no means regarded again.”

The next Christmas, as he turned 17, the vacation and his birthday had new which means — not considered one of questioning and fear however of reassurance as a result of, he stated, of the hope his rediscovered non secular connections had given him.

Earlier than then, household discord and a latchkey-kid life had meant Christmas, even with all the right trimmings, lacked the guts for which he yearned.

That 12 months, “Christmas went from black and white to paint,” he stated.

Now, he loves his Christmas birthday, together with the common remarks he hears about it when individuals discover the date on his driver’s license.

Every year, his spouse bakes him Stoner Spaghetti — “Not within the hippie means,” he stated, explaining that the recipe dates to when his grandmother braved the Nice Melancholy by making do with no matter meals she had at hand.

His youngsters come residence for Christmas, their need to be with household a heartwarming change from his youthful birthdays.

His associates wish to tease him about his beard. He almost purchased a Santa Claus outfit this 12 months, and his grandson used to name him “Ho ho.”

Christmas and a birthday could be celebrated multi functional, comfortable, accepting bundle, full of the enjoyment and hope that mingle within the songs and indicators of the vacation, Matuzak stated.

Not everybody embraces the peace-on-earth, goodwill-to-men sentiments connected to the Christian story of Christmas, he is aware of.

“For me, it’s about goodwill,” Matuzak stated. “It’s the hope that we have now in a brand new life as a result of God got here to earth.”



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