Thursday, November 23, 2023

The awe and wonder of birthdays

I do not really enjoy most birthday parties: people come together for food, give presents to whosoever’s birthday is celebrated, and wish him or her a “Happy Birthday”. In Christian circles we might add a short prayer, asking God to bless that person throughout the coming year. Now, there is nothing wrong with good food, presents and prayers. But if that is all there is, the occasion remains like a celebration of a rich harvest without thanking the One who makes all things grow; it is like looking at nature, marveling at the countless species of animals and plants without ever thinking of the one who created them; like delighting in a symphony without honoring its composer or like being impressed by a magnificent building without realizing that there must be an architect who drew the plans. It sounds silly, but that is exactly what we tend to do. We worship created things rather than the Creator!

David, the great king of Israel, had a different perspective. He prayed:

“For you, LORD, created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” Psalm 139:13-14

Every birthday should be a Thanksgiving Day, an opportunity to thank God for creating an absolutely perfect, miraculous human being, made in his own image, so precious to him that he gave his own son to die on a cross in order to redeem us from the powers of darkness, pride and evil that try to keep us from everything our souls long for -  from the moment we are conceived until we die.

When Jesus was born in Bethlehem, angels appeared in the sky, gave glory to God and challenged the shepherds in the field to do so as well. I think that every birth is surrounded by great awe and wonder in heaven, no matter whether the newborn is male or female, whether it is Asian or Caucasian, born in or out of wedlock, into poverty or riches and no matter whether it is born to Jewish, Christian, Hindu, Muslim, Atheist or Buddhist parents, may they live in Gaza or in China, on the Red Sea or the Black one: A new soul, a unique personality with needs, dreams and a deep longing to be loved and to love has been born!

Therefore, instead of just wishing each other a “Happy Birthday", let us celebrate our birthdays by thanking God and by worshipping Him, our maker, for giving us a brother/sister, friend, neighbor, … - a gift He and we can delight in.