The voice on the other line is weary and tired because this is easily the tenth restaurant he has called this morning.
“Umm, hi. My name is Bartholomew and I wanted to make a reservation for my friend’s 21st birthday.”
“Absolutely, we would love to celebrate with you. How many people and what day can we expect you?”
“Well, there will be ten of us on December 25th at, like 7:30.”
“Ohhh, I am sorry,” says Bathsheba. “We are closed that day for Christmas. You know, ever since Jesus was born twenty-one years ago, we all get an extra day off so, yeah. I can fit you in on the 26th, will that work?”
Bartholomew decides to drop the name bomb on this hostess to see if it will change her perspective.
“Actually, the birthday party is for Jesus. He’s my best friend and each year everything is closed on his birthday. This year, seeing that he can legally drink and everything, I thought it would be nice if he could celebrate his birthday in a restaurant. Usually, we just hang out in a donkey stable and do shots, but I wanted something special this time.”
Bathsheba sighs heavily. “Yeah, no, we’re closed. Maybe try the IHOP over in Zarzir? I think they stay open for his birthday. And tell Jesus I love him!” And with that, Bathsheba hangs up the phone.
Frustrated, Bartholomew slams the receiver back onto its crook. “IHOP doesn’t even have a liquor license,” he mutters, “I’ll be damned if I’m gonna ask Jesus to turn water into wine on his own birthday.”
Back at Olive Garden, Bathsheba tells the other hostess Salome about the phone call from Jesus’ best friend. “Can you believe he thinks that we’re gonna stay open just so he can celebrate his birthday? Ummm, hello? You may have brought everlasting light into my heart, but that’s my day off.”
Salome is shocked to hear such disdain for Jesus. “But Bathsheba, he’s the son of God. And I read on TMZ that he is supposed to die for our sins some day. He’s kinda a big deal.”
“Whatever,” snorted Bathsheba. “Happy birthday, Jesus but it’s not my fault that you have a shitty birthday.”
Salome looks at the caller ID and writes down Bartholomew’s phone number. Later that day, she hesitantly calls Bartholomew who is at the end of his rope trying to plan a birthday party for Jesus. He picks up the phone. “Hello?”
“Hi, my name is Salome and I work at Olive Garden. I understand you want to have a party of ten on December 25th. What time would you like to be here?”
Surprised, Bartholomew clears his throat. ”But I thought you were closed that day. Did something change?”
“Yes. Yes, it did. What time can we expect you?”
“We will see you then,” says Salome. “”Have a good day!”
Salome did not know how she was going to manage this, but she knew it had to happen. “I mean, Jesus Christ, it’s Jesus Christ’s birthday, right?” she says out loud. And then she begins to pray.
“Dear God, I need your help. It’s your son’s birthday in a couple of days and I’m sure you already got him something really great, but I want him to be able to come to Olive Garden of Nazareth. Our front door says ‘when you’re here, you’re family” so I want to live up to that slogan. Help me make this happen for Jesus. Amen.”
Three days later, Bartholomew is at Jesus’ house. He watches as Jesus opens his birthday present from his parents, Mary and Joseph.
“Oh. My. Dad. You got me more frankincense?? I cannot believe you got me more frankincense. I ran out of this like 15 years ago, thank you!”
“Your father said it was too expensive, but I said ‘no, Joe, he’s 21 years old. I want him to have some more frankincense.’ Isn’t that right Joseph? Always so cheap, your father.”
Joseph laughs as Mary pokes him playfully in the ribs. “You deserve it son of God,” he says. “Just don’t use it all in one sitting, you hear me?”
Jesus gives his parents a hug and Bartholomew promptly announces they have dinner reservations. The four of them pile onto the donkey and head over to Olive Garden. In the parking lot, they are greeted by six of their friends, Simon, James, Thomas, Phillip, Esther and Sussudio. They all yell “surprise” at him and Jesus is in shock.
“You guys! I feel so popular right now. And are we really eating at Olive Garden? Really? I thought they were closed today. This is so wonderful. I have the best friends ever. Bartholomew, was this your doing? Come here, you!’
The two friends embrace heartily, Bartholomew feeling that the hug ends just slightly sooner than he would have liked. Jesus pulls away from his somewhat clingy friend and laughs uncomfortably.
At the front door, Salome appears. She is holding a basket of bread sticks and two jugs of wine.
“When you’re here, your family!” she exclaims. “Come in!”
As everyone is ushered to the table, Bartholomew quickly realizes they are the only ones in the restaurant. He goes to Salome and asks her how she managed for this to happen.
“Well, I prayed to God for this to happen. I prayed every day for three days straight for him to open the eyes of management so they could see how very important this day is for Jesus Christ our Savior.”
“And God answered your prayers, right?”
“No, actually I never heard back from him, so I stole the keys from the manager and just opened the place myself. I’ll do all the cooking and serving.”
“I am so grateful, thank you,” says Bartholomew. “But can you cook for this many people?”
“Oh, sure it’ll be fine. I found the directions for everything and it’s pretty much all just microwaved. I can do this. I just really wanted Jesus to have a great 21st birthday. Wine?”
She fills his glass and then heads back to the table to pour wine for Jesus and his friends.
“Happy birthday, Jesus. Or Merry Christmas or whatever! Crispy Chicken Ravioli Supremo for everyone!”