ITS MY BIRTHDAY 6-30-19
It’s My Birthday!
June 30, 2019
Yes, today really is my birthday. And there are several other church members who have celebrated their birthday in the month of June as well. Traditionally, Americans celebrate their birthday with a cake and candles, blowing out the candles as they make a wish for the coming year. Other countries have some interesting variations, and unique traditions as well.
For instance, in Venezuela, you can expect to see people celebrating their birthday and then get their face plunged into the cake when blowing out the candles. Just like many other traditions around the world, this gesture symbolizes a wish of love, laughter and luck for the coming year. Nonetheless, there is a bit of skill involved in making sure the candles are off or well positioned to ensure safety.
A famous Mexican birthday tradition for children consists of hanging a Piñata (a colorful and decorated container often made of papier-mâché, cloth or pottery and filled with candy and small toys) before letting the blindfolded birthday boy or girl try to hit it with a stick. Needless to say that the resulting candy showers will provide much delight to anyone attending the celebration, and not just the children.
In the UK and more particularly in Ireland, a ritual is to hold the birthday person upside down and proceed to bump his or her head on the floor. The practice understandably becomes rarer as you get older as you can expect to be bumped once for each year of age. Similar traditions exist around the world where instead of bumps on the head, you will receive smacks on the back plus one for good luck in Scotland and actual kicks in the butt in India.
In a number of regions of the Caribbean and most commonly in Jamaica, you can expect to have any of your birthdays celebrated by having your whole body covered in copious amounts of flour by friends, family and random observers alike. To make things more interesting, the unlucky ones even get doused and soaked with water before to make sure the flour is hard to get rid of.
The last one I am going to mention today has got to be one of the strangest but also scariest birthday traditions. Surprisingly this is becoming quite a common practice in Switzerland and more particularly in the city of Lucerne. Parents will hire an evil looking clown who will proceed to stalk and torment the birthday boy or girl, before finishing with a pie to the face for good luck. This is all meant to bring health and happiness to the special someone, albeit in an ominous fashion, as the clown will sometimes proceed to stalk and call their victim on their phone for a few days before concluding with the pie.*
So while there are a few countries that don’t celebrate birthdays for various reasons, most agree that our birthdays are cause for celebration and praising God that He gave us life on this earth. But there is another ‘birthday’ that is even more important, and cause for even greater celebration. That is the day we are born a second time, or ‘born again’.
As you heard in our first Scripture reading (John 3:1-7), Jesus told Nicodemus that we must be born again. Naturally, he had trouble understanding how such a thing was possible. After all, there is no way a grown man can go back into his mother’s womb and then re-emerge back into this world. So Jesus explained to him that we have to be born first of water, the amniotic fluid in which we developed**, and then of the Spirit, washed clean by the living water of God’s Word (Ephesians 5:26). If we are not born of the Spirit, while our bodies may have physical life, our spirits are in essence dead. Dead in trespasses and sin. Dead in unbelief. Dead to God and unable to live eternally in heaven.
This second birth occurs the moment we put our faith in Jesus Christ, in his sacrifice for us on the cross, and his resurrection from the dead. When we come to Jesus with a repentant heart, and ask Him to save us, admitting that we cannot earn heaven through our own works, and that we want to forsake our sins and live for Him, both in this world and the world to come, He will create a new spirit within us through the power of the Holy Spirit, and we will be born again!
Now, just as newborn babies cannot yet talk or walk or eat solid food, but only drink their mother’s milk, a newborn child of God needs to grow in the faith and mature. We must feed on the Word of God, and continually cry out to God for all that we need to grow strong in the Lord. And just as there are children in this world that are more mature in their ways than some adults, so it is with the spirit as well. The apostle Paul dealt with this at the church in Corinth. In 1 Corinthians 3 he says, “Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly – mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it.” (vs. 1-2). And in Hebrews 5 we read how we learn obedience as we mature, and how to distinguish good from evil through learning the truth found in God’s Word; but without it we remain infants in Christ – basically acting liked spoiled brats! So do you only want that sweet milk, the blessings without the trials that mature us? Do you refuse to eat your vegetables and do your homework? It’s time to grow up!
Yes, today is my birthday, and physically I am now 61 years old. But spiritually, I am only 41, for I truly turned to the Lord when I was 20. Even though I knew the Bible well as a child, I had not been told I must make it personal until I attended a church that opened my heart and mind to that truth. So my ‘teen years’ in Christ started when I was 33 physically, but 13 in the spirit. And I was the typical rebellious teenager. But thankfully, God saw me through that period, and taught me much as I wandered through the dark alleys of the spiritual world.
So no matter how old you are physically, you are never to old to be born again if you have not been as yet. But keep in mind that once you leave this world, it is too late. And if you have been born again, how old is the living spirit within you? Are you acting your spiritual age? Some mature quicker than others, and we must show patience and diligence in helping those who are still infants, while encouraging those who are growing steadily toward spiritual maturity. And, of course, we must reach out to those who do not yet know about the second birth, and whose spirits are still dead to Christ, that they might also come to know the truth and be born again. Amen.
*These birthday traditions were all taken from https://www.travelsim.net.au/blog/2016/10/06/top-10-birthday-traditions-from-around-the-world/. You can read more there!