Thanking God for the gift of life

Sunday September 12 2021
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Birthday celebrations should not be taken for granted . PHOTO/NET

By Msgr John Wynand Katende

As we bemoan the death of our loved ones, owing to the Covid-19 pandemic, HIV/Aids, malaria, murders, suicides, poverty, road carnage, among other issues, it is helpful to also consider the other side of the coin. The birth rate is higher than the death rate. Birthday anniversaries are largely being celebrated. And so on. Life is, therefore, still worth living, because it is stronger than death (Luke 7:11-17).

I recently participated in a surprise birthday celebration for my brother, having clocked 50 years. In his remarks, he confessed having appreciated the value of birthday celebrations. I have chosen to share with the reader some of the reflections that transpired. 

The norm of celebrating birthday anniversaries may not be that obvious. Some even peg it to paganism. Indeed, Matthew 14:1-12 records the birthday celebration of Herod the Tetrarch, who simply prided in himself by spending lavishly and making merry, characterised with obscenities. It ended in the beheading of John the Baptist. Africans celebrate their birthdays according to their unique traditions. They generally mark the transition of a person’s life cycle from the day they are born to the day they die. 

Luke 2:8-20 invites us to celebrate the nativity of Jesus, because He is the Saviour of the world. We do so every December 25. Following their master, Christians celebrate their birthdays in a God-glorifying way. It is occasion to praise and thank God for the gift of life. Every breath counts. After a whole year of so many breaths, they find right and just to express with Psalm 118:2: “This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” 

Celebration value
A birthday anniversary gives us occasion to thank our parents, especially dear mothers; for not having believed in abortion. Hundreds of innocent children, otherwise, die at the hands of killers, having been hired by their own mothers (safe abortion) We use the occasion to also appreciate well-wishers along our journey of life. 

A birthday anniversary creates a good opportunity to be thankful for what we have in life and what we have accomplished. 
A birthday anniversary marks a new beginning. Because time itself is like a spiral, the same energy that God invested in us at birth is present once again. It is our duty to be receptive to that force by committing to a life guided by God’s will, and by using the abilities and resources we were born with to perfect ourselves and society, so as to make this world a better place to live in. 

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In that respect, we praise God not only for guiding our direction, and for His merciful love and forgiveness, whenever we make mistakes. We would, hereby, apply the “Ebenezer” expression of 1 Samuel 7:12: “Thus far the LORD has helped us.”
Spiritual guides recommend that the best way to celebrate a birthday is to commit a special act of goodness or charity. Such an act of kindness gives God great pleasure (2 Corinthians 9:7). In celebrating our birthdays, we also pray that God grants us more and better life; that He fills our heart with His blessings and keeps our mind fixed on the joy of heaven. Happily, the date of our death, will mark the date of our new birth in heaven!

As Christians, we are called to uplift each other (1 Thessalonians 5:11). We may as well focus on celebrating each others’ birthday anniversaries, instead of ours; and possibly ask what we can do for them. This will show them how much their life matters. In that sense, we do well to also celebrate birthday anniversaries of our parents, grandparents and leaders. 
 “I will praise the Lord as long as I live” (Psalm 104:33).

Did you know?
It’s important to take time on your birthday and the birthdays of those you love to thank the Lord for all that He has given you, as well as to reflect on all the good things to come.

God provides innumerable blessings, and the Bible reminds us that His gifts never cease. Getting older may not always feel like a blessing, but God’s benevolent presence can help make that journey feel a little less daunting.

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