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Why Do We Celebrate Birthdays?

Biblical Authority Devotional: Christmas, Part 7

by Jeremy Ham on December 22, 2010
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Jeremy Ham, AiG–U.S., expains that the focus of a birthday celebration should not be on self, but on the one who created life.

But when Herod’s birthday was celebrated, the daughter of Herodias danced before them and pleased Herod. (Matthew 14:6)

Today’s big question: why do we celebrate birthdays?

Celebrating the anniversary of one’s birth is very common. In fact, even in the first century, Herod Antipas celebrated his birthday. When we ask the question of why we celebrate birthdays, we must first define who is doing the celebrating. The explanation for how human beings came to be greatly affects why we celebrate.

People who do not acknowledge God as their Creator and Authority have no greater reason to live other than to eat, drink, and be merry in their own works (Ecclesiastes 2:24). Secularists ultimately have nothing better to do other than celebrate, so why not celebrate your birthday?

As Christians, we are instructed to be selfless, putting others first. However, for secularists, the very act of defying God displays their self-centered nature (Psalm 10:4). In a sense, celebrating your own birthday could be seen as commending yourself, which is contrary to Scripture (2 Corinthians 10:12).

Furthermore, some say that birthdays are pagan in origin because some of the birthdays mentioned in Scripture refer to the celebrations of Herod and Pharaoh. Although, we must recognize that celebrating birthdays is all about the who. Rather than using birthdays to celebrate yourself, Christians should use them to celebrate the life that God gave us and praise Him for it—something secularists would not do.

Birthdays are a good reminder of what God has given us. In fact, reminders are biblical; God commanded the Israelites to set up stones to remind them of what God has done for them (Joshua 4:1–7). Moreover, when celebrating birthdays, we would be remiss if we were not to remember the most important birthday—the birth of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.

We don’t know the exact day of Jesus Christ’s birth, but the particular date is really not the point anyway. What is important about the birth of Jesus Christ is the reminder for all of us. Jesus loved us so much that He sacrificed Himself to wash away all of our sins with His blood (Revelation 1:5). If we are to love others as Jesus commanded, then we need to remember the love of Jesus and what He did for us (John 13:34–25).

Christmas is like those stones in Joshua: they both serve as reminders. One important thing we need to remember on Christmas is the birth of Jesus and what He was coming into the world to accomplish. We can also use our own birthday to serve as a reminder of the most important birthday.

Today’s big idea: we should always remember and celebrate the most important birthday, Jesus Christ’s.

What to pray: ask God to help us never forget what Jesus did for us.

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