When I was growing up, birthday celebrations were a big event in my house. Not because they were particularly fancy or expensive, but just because they were celebrated. Despite whatever other activities or work pressed in, my parents tried to set aside time to make these days special.
My mom always would make a dinner featuring foods that the birthday person loved, along with the type of cake we requested. Family members would give gifts, but typically would keep them secret until they were presented after dinner and dessert. I remember a few special gifts – the Enchanted Castle book, the Chatty Kathy doll, the large colored pencil set, the new bike.
As I got older, the gifts changed of course, but always there was a sense of joy at being remembered and valued.
Henri J. M. Nouwen offers a wonderful insight into the meaning of our birthdays:
“Birthdays need to be celebrated. I think it is more important to celebrate a birthday, than a successful exam or promotion or a victory. Because to celebrate a birthday means to say to someone “thank you for being you”.”
Our world loves to celebrate success, efficiency, and productivity, which earn us awards and certificates and degrees. Those are fine within themselves, and often represent some wonderful accomplishments of our bodies and our minds.
A birthday, though, is different. Instead of being honored for what we’ve done, a birthday honors us for just being. In Psalm 139, we are told that we are wonderfully made by our creator…and a birthday celebrates that fact. Cards and presents and prayers are offered on our birthday to bless us and express appreciation for us.
Often when I receive a card, a friend is thanking me simply for being their friend, or a family member is telling me they love having me around, or perhaps they are expressing gratefulness for some character quality they see in me.
And we get to return the blessing when someone else has a birthday.
God desires that we relate to one another with encouragement, with caring, with exhortation. He wants us to build each other up. And birthdays are a wonderful time to do just that! As we send a card, make a call, give a thoughtful gift or a sweet hug, we express value to that other person.
God must think a great deal of each of us to tell us that we are fearfully and wonderfully made. And when we choose to reach out and celebrate another person, we are agreeing with God that they are special in some way. Birthdays give us the opportunity to remind someone of an unshakeable truth: they are valued by us and by God.
Do you know someone having a birthday soon? I encourage you to celebrate them.
Dear Lord, thank you for giving us life. You have chosen to make us in your image, so we are fearfully and wonderfully created. Please encourage those reading this blog to be assured that you feel this way about them. I also ask that you would help them reach out when their friends, family members, or co-workers are having a birthday. Give them opportunities to love others by celebrating them, and expressing appreciation and encouragement. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.