Month 3:27, Week 4:5 (Chamashee/teruah), Year 5935:083 AM|
Omer Count Day 19/50
Gregorian Calendar: Tuesday 28 June 2011
What Scripture Has to Say About It
People have a lot of expectations when it comes to birthdays...and as it happens to be my birthday today (I think), I thought a few words on this subject would not be amiss.
The Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox worlds think birthdays are important and celebrate them enthusiastically. Amongst Messianics there are those who pretty much follow Western traditions but there are also those who, like the Jehovah's Witnesses, think that birthday celebration is a pagan custom and ought to be shunned altogether. They argue, like the Watchtower folk, that it was only sinners like Herod who observed the day. And it is true, birthday celebration wasn't something the ancient Hebrews paid a lot of attention to, whether their own or, latterly, the Birth of Messiah. It was Roman Western Christians who eventually decided that Christ's birthday should be observed annually. The fact that they picked the birthday of a pagan antichrist, Nimrod - on 25 December - to celebrate it on, when we know the the Saviour was born in the spring (Messianics are not agreed on this), does not seem to have bothered these Romanised believers. And whatever Christmas is, it is not Christian and has nothing to do with the birth of Messiah. It's rites (Yule logs, mistletoe, Santa Claus, etc.) honour demons.
The Bible is silent about birthday celebration and this is taken by many as evidence that we should not observe it. Others misapply the teachings of Paul and say that we can celebrate whatever we want, including pagan festivals redressed to look Christian. However, Scripture is not silent about festivals and is quite clear: we are not to imitate pagan celebrations in any way and we are to observe those appointments that Yahweh haa commanded. These are our communal obligations as believers, something which we in this ministry are adamant about. Neither Yahweh nor Yah'shua (Jesus) nor His apostles ever commanded us to celebrate the birthday of Yah'shua (Jesus) - even assuming we knew when it was for certain - and so we usually don't even though we do remember His death and resurrection in the manner He commanded at the appointed times that fulfilled two of the spring festivals, Pesach (Passover) and Yom haBikkurim (Firstfruits).
But what of personal birthdays? According to Scripture, provided we first honour Yah'shua (Jesus) then things like birthdays, anniversaries and the like - and to celebration them with fellowship meals - are part of the liberty we have in Messiah (though not the liberty to change Yahweh's religious observances or add our own):
This, then, is the scriptural counsel on the subject. (This passage has nothing, incidentally, to do with the commandment to eat kosher food - it does not allow us to eat what we want). As far as the Messianic Community (Church) is concerned, we are to follow the revelation in Scripture and not go inventing or imitating pagan religious festivals.
"One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it to the Master; and he who does not observe the day, to the Master he does not observe it. He who eats, eats to the Master, for he gives Elohim (God) thanks; and he who does not eat, to the Master he does not eat, and gives Elohim (God) thanks. For none of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Master; and if we die, we die to the Master. Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Master's" (Rom.14:5-8, NKJV).
Personal and family observances are another thing so if you want to observe birthdays, it is the position of this ministry that believers are free to do so provided they do it first and foremost for Messiah! That means not following pagan customs in such observances (such as blowing out candles on cakes) but keeping it simple and Messiah-honouring. It's a time we can thank Yahweh for bringing our children, siblings, parents, relatives and friends into the world to share their lives with us.
Finally, when is your birthday? Mine is supposedly '28 June'. The trouble is, our forefathers had no 'June' or any Roman calendar at all. For both Yahweh's moedim and for personal time keeping there was only the Creation Calendar. Did the ancient Israelites need to know their birthday? Absolutely, so that males could be circumcisied eight days after birth (under the Old Covenant) and when they turned 20 years of age, for this was the day a boy officially became a man and it was the day he was liable for military service if needed (unless he had just got married, in which case he was given a year's 'marriage leave'). Every Israelite male needed to know his 20th birthday. And your birthday became important during the taking of a census, such as is recorded in the Book of Numbers. So it's not as though anyone forgot their birthday, but they would not have remembered it as '28 June' but something like 'the 27th day of the third month'. Actually, my birthday may very well not be today at all - I may be several days off. So if we are going to do this right in future, we need to find out when we were born on the Creation Calendar.
I had a quiet and enjoyable birthday today with my family. They made me a cake (no candles) and I had some very simple inexpensive presents, though none were expected. My daughter made me a card and everyone signed it asking for Yahweh's blessing on me for another year. We gathered around the supper table and gave thanks to Yahweh and enjoyed a simple meal. Otherwise it was a pretty ordinary day doing things together. May you celebrate yours in the way you desire, if you want to, honouring Yahweh if you do, and give Him thanks for the miracle of chayim (life)!
 Birthdays, Circumcision and Tests of Faith
 Birthday Celebration (FAQ)
Comments from readers
"Very true - Elohim has called us to do everything to His glory! I think with birthdays and celebrating or remembering birthdays it means the way we do that will look very different to most of the ways the world does so.
I hadn't realised blowing our candles on a birthday cake had pagan roots! I did a quick search to find out a little more about where it came from, and found this:
(DP, South Africa, 29 June 2011)
"It is said that the custom of placing candles on a birthday was started by early Greeks who used to place candles on the cake that they offered to Artemis - the Goddess of Moon. Lit candles made their round shape cake glow like the moon. Germans, who perfected themselves in the art of candle-making placed candles on the cake but for religious reasons. They used to place a big candle in the centre of the cake to represent ‘light of life’. The candle is marked with lines and numbers, usually 12, which would be burned every year.
"Scholars also say that the custom of placing candles originated because people believed that gods lived in the skies. They thought that lit candles helped to send signals and prayers to the god so that they could be answered more effectively. The other belief that people held was when a person makes a wish while blowing out the votive candle a signal or message was received by the god and the prayers would be answered" (http://www.tokenz.com/birthday-candles.html)
"I never liked being given birthday congratulations. Now I know the center is Yahweh, not me. People celebrate themselves - it is so useless. They didn't do anything to bring themselves into the world" (SW, Germany, 29 June 2011).