Each year after the holidays are over and the decorations are all put away, I start to think about the people I know who have birthdays coming up. I think this habit started early in my grammar school days. One of my close friends back then was Tom and he was born on a January 19th, which was yesterday. I think it was memorable to me because my birthday comes on February 19th and my other close friend in early childhood, Ray, celebrated his birthday on March 19th. So we kind of had a lock on the 19th for the first quarter of the year.
I lost touch with both Tom and Ray many years ago, in high school, but people born on the 19th kept coming into my life. Ironically, back in 1991, I met another Tom, who eventually became a good friend. Although he wasn’t in Indianapolis for more than several years, we have continued to stay in touch for more than 20 years now. In fact, Janet and I haven’t seen him in years but that doesn’t matter. We vowed quite a while ago that regardless of whatever else happened in our lives, we would extend birthday greetings to one another each year.
So, yesterday, I wrote my email to Tom and sure enough, I received a response several hours later. It’s amazing as the years roll around much our lives change. Tom has survived a number of health issues, including a brain tumor that required surgery several years ago. He had to learn his motor skills all over again, and although he was able to retire early, his life is full with twin daughters starting college and he has a wonderful wife.
Back when we first met, I owned a business and he was the vice-president of a very large national company. Since then, I left the business world, attended seminary, was ordained and have re-entered the corporate arena, so to speak. Tom has faced his own challenges but was blessed financially and able to retire years ago.
Speaking of the 19th, I have met others who share that day for their birthdays. At least two other folks share my birthday and so we will all trade greetings a month from now. It’s kind of odd how I mark the passing of the first quarter of the year. Interestingly, I remember my grandmother, who had a remarkable memory, could sit and recite birthdays of people she knew for almost every day of the year…
But physical birth is only the first birth for Christ followers. There are numerous verses in the Bible about praising God for the birth of a child and even Paul, in the first chapter of Galatians, wrote that he was set apart by God from his birth for a life of preaching the Gospel to the Gentiles. Of course, we know that the first part of Paul’s life was filled with persecution of Christians and it is even possible that as a contemporary of Jesus, Paul could have been present at the crucifixion and also the stoning of Stephen. It wasn’t until his famous trip to Damascus that Paul had his encounter with Christ and became a “believer” – in other words, born again.
That’s the second birth each Christian goes through – a conversion experience. Only this time, it’s eternal life and that never results in death. So, those of us who believe in the deity of Christ are born twice, but only die once, and that is death to our own selves – trading that for eternal life with Christ.
The verse for tonight comes from James 1:16-18, “Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.” My encouragement this evening is to let you know that God celebrates the day of your birth with you – in fact, He was the one who designed and created you. He also celebrates the day of your second birth – even more than when you were physically born. My prayer is that you will celebrate the anniversary of both of these events, even though there are few among us who recall the exact day we accepted the invitation to be “born again.” So if you don’t remember the exact date, perhaps each birthday you can celebrate both of your birthdays – because they are both noteworthy to Him.
Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…