Happy Birthday!

Excerpt from Job 1:1-5

“Every year when each of Job’s sons had a birthday, he invited his brothers and sisters to his house for a celebration. On these occasions they would eat and drink with great merriment.” (The Living Bible)

Reflection by Martin B. Copenhaver

Today is my wife’s birthday.  (Happy birthday, Karen!).

I love birthdays, probably because my mother always made sure that our birthdays were fun and festive.  Our family would all dress up for dinner and, as the birthday boy, I got to determine the menu.  There would be a cairn of bright packages on a side table eagerly waiting to be opened after the meal. 

The culmination of the meal was a birthday cake made from scratch.  Somewhere along the line, my mother started putting little charms in the icing between the layers of cake.  Then, when you found a charm, she would interpret it.  One year I was particularly delighted to get a tiny charm of an ocean liner, which my mother told me meant that I would be going on an exciting trip.  So you can see why I love birthdays.

Birthdays are not prominently featured in the Bible.  There are stories of births, to be sure, but only three references to birthdays and two of those are quite grim.  Pharaoh hanged his chief baker on his birthday, just as Joseph had predicted (Genesis 40:16-23).   Herod celebrated his birthday by beheading John the Baptist (Matthew 14:6-10).

So thank goodness for Job’s family, who apparently celebrated birthdays with gusto.  Their birthday parties sound almost like ones my mother would have planned.

Birthdays are worth celebrating, it seems to me, not only as a celebration of an individual’s life, but also as a celebration of the God who created each of us.  Because each life is a miracle birthdays are times to offer twin exclamations, both, “Happy birthday!” and, “Praise God!” 

Thank you, God, for the gift of life and the gift of Karen. 

About the Author
Martin B. Copenhaver is Senior Pastor, Wellesley Congregational Church, United Church of Christ, Wellesley, Massachusetts. He is the author, with Lillian Daniel, of This Odd and Wondrous Calling: the Public and Private Lives of Two Ministers.