I am taking a little break in the study of “The Gifts of the Holy Spirit” to wish my fellow August-Birthday-Buddies a VERY JOYOUS and BLESSED AUGUST BIRTHDAY! Yay! August is finally here! I have already told you, in a previous post, that I celebrate my whole BIRTH-MONTH. In so doing, I have more time to do all the special things that are on my “Birthday Wish List” (Now that I’m getting older, it takes more time to accomplish things – even fun things.). And, less you think that I’m thinking only of myself, celebrating the whole month of August takes the pressure off my friends and family. They do not have to remember the exact date of my birthday and they have more time to send me cards and shower me with gifts and plan “ROAD TRIPS”. Celebrating the “Birth-Month” makes more sense to me.
Where did the tradition of celebrating one’s birthday come from? As with most traditions and holidays, birthday celebrations have pagan roots. Birthdays were celebrated as far back as biblical times. Some may think the giving of birthday gifts started with the Magi giving gifts to the baby Jesus, found in Matthew 2:1-12. Actually, Jesus was about two years old when the Magi came to His house and there is no mention of it being Jesus’ birthday. The two birthday “parties” mentioned in the Bible are Pharaoh’s birthday, in Genesis 40:20-23, and Herod’s birthday, in Matthew 14:6-12 (Also Mark 6:21-29). Both birthday celebrations had anything but “happy” endings:
“Now the third day was Pharaoh’s birthday, and he gave a feast for all his officials. He lifted up the heads of the chief cupbearer and the chief baker in the presence of his officials: He restored the chief cupbearer to his position, so that he once again put the cup into Pharaoh’s hand, but he hanged the chief baker, just as Joseph had said to them in his interpretation. The chief cupbearer, however, did not remember Joseph; he forgot him” (Genesis 40:20-23). [Instead of Joseph being freed from prison, he remained there for awhile longer.]
“On Herod’s birthday the daughter of Herodias danced for them and pleased Herod so much that he promised with an oath to give her whatever she asked. Prompted by her mother, she said, ‘Give me here on a platter the head of John the Baptist.’ The king was distressed, but because of his oaths and his dinner guests, he ordered that her request be granted and had John beheaded in prison. His head was brought on a platter and given to the girl, who carried it to her mother. John’s disciples came and took his body and buried it. Then they went and told Jesus” (Matthew 14:21-29).
These two examples are what NOT to do on one’s birthday. I may not kill anyone on my birth-month, but I may use it as an excuse to be self-centered and insensitive to others: “It’s my birth-month, so everyone has to cater to me and I have the right to take a vacation from serving others” NOT! The Psalmist writes, “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12). The anniversary of the day God gave me life is a reminder of why He gave me life and do what Jesus taught me in His Word: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind…[and] Love your neighbor as yourself” (See Matthew 22:37-40, Mark 12:30-31 and Luke 10:27). Jesus also teaches me: “…You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:42b-45) [See Matthew 20:25-28 and Luke 22:25-27]. My birth-month is not a time forget about everything God has taught me through the many years of sitting at His feet, but a time to do all that He taught me and continues to teach me in His Word.
Like other pagan holidays, Christianity influenced the tradition of birthdays. The early Christian Church introduced the Calendar of Saints, which associated each day with a saint or martyr. Roman Catholics began the tradition of taking the name of a saint for one’s self on his/her baptismal or conformation and celebrating that day as one’s “name day” rather than celebrate one’s actual “birth day” (www.giveagift.net).
The celebration of birthdays in Europe began to ward off “evil spirits” on one’s date of birth by the giving of gifts, well wishes and gathering together with the “birthday” person to keep him/her safe. Our modern day, less ominous, birthday parties came from this European tradition (www.giveagift.net). The birthday party reminds me of what Christian Fellowship should be like: “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer…Everyday they continued to meet…They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved (See Acts 2:42-47). Did you ever think of a church service or a Bible study as a party? They are parties given for the Lord Jesus, but Jesus is the One bearing gifts for us, found in His [NEW BIRTH CARD] Word, with blessings which fill us with the JOY of knowing Him. He is our Shepherd Who will not let any evil harm us. “Thanks be to God for His Indescribable Gift!” (II Corinthians 9:15). Jesus gives us the Gift of His abundant and everlasting life: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. I am the Good Shepherd…” (John 10:10-lla).
Birthday cakes, candles and songs are birthday traditions which started in the United States and many other countries adopted these traditions (www.giveagift.net). To my August-Birth-Month Buddies: My prayer is, as we see more and more candles on our birthday cakes, may God’s Word become sweeter to us and His light grow brighter in us/ In addition to the traditional “HAPPY BIRTHDAY” song [written by Patty and Mildred Hill in 1893 and is now sung in at least 18 languages – Wikipedia], we also have a NEW song to sing to the Lord, placed in our hearts by the Holy Spirit of God. Let it grow louder and louder as the years go by!
“How sweet are Your Words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! I gain understanding from Your precepts; therefore I hate every wrong path. Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:103-105).
“Sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD, praise His Name; proclaim His Salvation day after day. Declare His glory among the nations, His marvelous deeds among all peoples. For great is the LORD and most worthy to be praised” (Psalm 96:1-4a).
Other countries have their own unique birthday traditions. Many countries in South America include dancing the waltz into their birthday celebrations (www.giveagift.net). My prayer is that we will be able to dance to the Lord with thanksgiving in our hearts for all He has done for us through the years and continues to do.
“You turned my wailing into dancing; You removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing to You and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give you thanks forever” (Psalm 30:11-12).
In Mexico, Cuba, and Panama piñatas are big at birthday celebrations (www.giveagift.net). My prayer is for the Lord to help us persevere in our faith.
“Blessed is the man [woman] who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him” (James 1:12).
“For this reason, make every effort to add to your faith, goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, PERSEVERANCE; and to PERSEVERANCE, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (II Peter 1:5-7).
Finally [the best for last], many parts of the world have the traditions of giving the birthday person claps, slaps, spankings, or ear pullings – one for each year of life and an additional one for good luck [or “a pinch to grow an inch”] (www.giveagift.net). My prayer is for all of us to respond quickly in repentance and learn much from the Lord’s discipline.
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight… My son [daughter], do not despise the LORD’s discipline and do not resent His rebuke, because the LORD disciplines those He loves, as a father the son [daughter] he delights in” (Proverbs 3:5-6 and 11-12).
“‘Come now, let us reason together,’ says the LORD. ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool’” (Isaiah 1:18).
No matter how old I get, I will always need my Father to guide me and show me the way.
HAPPY AUGUST BIRTHDAYS!