Why Do We Celebrate Birthdays?

Christmas Devotional

by Jeremy Ham on December 22, 2010; last featured December 17, 2019

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)

Celebrating the anniversary of one’s birth is a very common and old practice. In fact, in the first century the Bible records Herod Antipas celebrating his birthday. When we ask the question of why we celebrate birthdays, we must first determine 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?

Christians: A Big Difference

As Christians, we are instructed to be selfless, putting others first. However, for secularists, the very act of defying God displays their naturally 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).

Christians have a unique opportunity

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. However, we must recognize that celebrating birthdays is all about the who. Christians have a unique opportunity: rather than using birthdays to celebrate self, Christians should use them to celebrate the life that God gave us and praise our Creator for it—something secularists would have no reason to do.

12 stones at Ark

On opening day at the Ark Encounter in 2016, the AiG board and founders put 12 stones in place (based on the 12 stones of Joshua’s day recorded in Joshua 4). The stones were a reminder that the truth of God’s Word and the gospel need to be proclaimed to our children and to all the world.

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.

Jesus’ Birthday

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 and sacrificed Himself to wash away all of our sins with His sinless 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 13:34–35).

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.

Ask God to help us never forget what Jesus did for us.


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