Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Un-celebrating birthdays, a liberating experience

by Al Sabado

Just because I don't greet people "Happy birthday" (along with "Merry Christmas," "Happy New Year," "Happy Valentine's," "Happy Mother's Day," "Happy Father's Day," "Happy Anniversary," etc.) doesn't mean I don't care. I don't even celebrate mine. :) Why? It began the time I realized the practice (along with the others I mentioned) came from pagan roots, not from the example of the Lord Jesus. Only two instances in the Bible refer to birthday celebration and both pertain to death, not birth. God's Word says,

But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage? Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years. I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain. (Galatians 4:9-11)

So today I asked, "Who in the Bible celebrated birthdays?" The apostles? There seems to be no account of that. Moses? Nah. Abraham? Neither. The Lord Jesus? Negative.

We can find Bible references to birthday celebration in two instances: one in the Old Testament and one in the New Testament. The first instance occurred during the time of Joseph, when Pharaoh made a feast on his birthday, an occasion where he ordered the hanging of his chief baker (Genesis 40:20-22, Old Testament). The second instance occurred during the time of King Herod, the man who, on his birthday celebration, ordered the beheading of John the Baptist, the prophet who was to prepare the way of the Lord Jesus (Luke 3:4, New Testament).

Notice such celebrations were occasions for death, not life--quite the contrary to the time when the Lord Jesus was born.

Different sources online tell us that celebrating birthdays isn't wrong. Fine. But--let's answer a not-so-uncommon question, "Why celebrate birthdays?"

"To celebrate our birth?"

OK. But not sold on that idea.

"Uh ... to give thanks to God for giving us life?"

Mmm ... doesn't that sound like the first answer?

Next question, how would you feel if your loved ones forget or fail to greet you on your birthday?

"Damn, I'd feel really bad."

Really? And why is that so?

"Gee, that's MY special day!"

There you go. It's YOUR special day.

So let's go back to the first question, paraphrased this time: "Why do you celebrate your birthday?"

Answer, "It's MY special day."

You see, the me-my-mine mode of this world inflicts certain misery on an individual who, when forgotten, neglected, or not given due entitlement, feels terribly hurt. And that's the kind of hurt that is by nature self-inflicted. As a believer, that isn't something Christlike, don't you think?

Celebrating birthdays is the orientation of the feel-good world that tells you and me to "Love thy self."

For the believers, who may be among those still struggling to survive a discouraging world (whether or not we admit it), it's high time to get past that mode, to diminish instances that focus on self, to eradicate factors that unnecessarily hurt or offend self, to be strong for the times God calls us to do something--whatever that is.

Are you with me?

Strengthening one's character is also about thinking less of self. If you're thinking how that could be possible, un-celebrating birthdays is a way to do that. You become less offended, less sensitive (not easily hurt--uh, yeah, synonymous to the previous one), more inclined to be thoughtful of others (probably not yet but getting there)--throughout the year!

Not to be degenerate or sort of masochist here (just unorthodox), but un-celebrating birthdays is a tried and tested method that makes one stronger--not the type (quietly or loudly) seeking the favor of men, but God. And indeed as believers, may we be unlike them who "loved the praise of men more than the praise of God" (John 12:43).
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.
And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. (Romans 12:1-2)

The author (right) with her sister Grace, kayaking 
in the hidden lagoon of Coron, Palawan.

See related readings on birthday celebration via Google search.

Updated: 25 September 2015

Let your 'Yes' be 'Yes' and your 'No,' 'No'...