When is it your birthday? Just as Christmas is a celebration of Christís birthday, so we have the custom of celebrating our own birthdays. People say ďHappy birthdayĒ to you. They congratulate you, maybe give you gifts, throw you a party, or take you out to dinner. But have you ever thought about why we celebrate birthdays? Is your birthday really worth celebrating?
What is a birthday? It is a celebration of your literal birth-day, the day of your birth. We have the custom of counting how old we are in years from that day. Birthdays are a time when we reflect on the beginning of those years, the beginning of your life. The Bible teaches plainly that life begins already when you were conceived. But since we donít always know exactly when conception happens, we donít start counting days and years from the moment of conception, but from the moment of birth. Thatís why we celebrate birth-days, not conception-days.
But that doesnít change the fact that life begins at conception. God creates human life in the womb. David describes it in Psalm 139: ďFor you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my motherís womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body.Ē So even before your birth-day, you were an unborn living child.
And what were you like when you were conceived and born? Physically itís a miracle! At birth you see the result of the amazing work that the Creator has been busy with for nine months. His marvellous handiwork: a little body with ten fingers and ten toes; a baby that breathes, kicks, cries, sneezes, burps; a complete respiratory system, circulatory system, digestive system. Absolutely incredible! Thatís worth celebrating!
Yet, with every baby born, there is something seriously wrong. Probably the doctor didnít tell your parents this at the hospital. Because itís a spiritual problem, not a physical problem. Every baby is born with it. Babies look sweet and innocent. But are they? The same David who marvelled at human life and birth in Psalm 139 had this to say in Psalm 51: ďSurely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.Ē Innocent at birth? David says: No! Innocent at conception? David says: No!
Instead of innocence there is guilt. From your beginning as a baby, you were covered with the guilt of sin and evil. When God tells you in the Bible that babies are sinful from conception and birth, you can be sure this is an accurate assessment. He is the Great Physician. He knows when there is spiritual disease of sin and when there isn't. He doesnít make a wrong diagnosis. Itís accurate. This is why you and I didnít need to be taught how to lie or argue. Itís what we are like from birth.
Thatís what is sad about birthdays. Every child is born infected with the deadly disease of sin. I am no exception, nor are you. So is your birthday still something to celebrate? From this perspective, the answer is: No! Because you were born as a sinner, spiritually dead. From the moment of your birth you deserved Godís punishment. That is nothing to celebrate. Itís a sad birthday, not a happy birthday.
Yet there was one birthday in history that was different. The birthday of Godís own Son, Jesus Christ. Christmas! Unlike all babies born before and after him, the baby in the manger was not infected by the deadly disease of sin. Here was the first and only baby ever born innocent, without any guilt. As a sign of His perfection, He was conceived and born without the involvement of an earthly father.
Jesus Christ was born as a man so He could take the place of every imperfect and sinful person who believes in Him. Your spiritual problems began from your conception and birth. So Jesus Christís work of salvation began with His conception and birth. From the moment of His conception and birth, He lived the perfect life that you never can live! Beginning in Maryís womb and Bethlehemís manger.
Thatís why for those who believe in Him, His birthday is a happy birthday! Itís why the great company of angels sang that birthday song on Christmas day: ďGlory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.Ē Christmas day, the birthday of Jesus Christ, is at last a birthday to celebrate! Celebration because He takes away guilt and sin.
This gives you a new perspective on your own birthday. Although by nature you were conceived and born under Godís curse, in Christ you are now under Godís blessing! The day of your birth is now no longer a sad day, but a happy day! Because the condemnation you deserve is gone! Now you can sing happy birthday and mean it!
Can you celebrate your birthday? Those who reject Christ, will discover on the day of judgment that all their birthday celebrations were in vain, because they were sinful from birth. They will receive Godís eternal judgment. But those who believe in Christ enjoy the benefits of His work. You will be covered by His perfection that started from conception and birth. Because of Christmas, birthdays for Christians are truly happy birthdays. May your next birthday be that kind of truly happy birthday!
Rev. Richard E. Pot
Published in Clarion, Year-End Edition, 2003