We were at the hospital when you were born and saw you within minutes of your birth… Not only did we want to be there – your mother wanted us there to welcome you into the world as well; and we did!
It’s difficult to even share with you how much things changed that day. My mind was drawn back to the day that your mother was born – our firstborn child. I was in the delivery room when your Mom entered the world. Back then, very few people wanted to know the sex of their children prior to being born. When I entered the delivery room, Grandma’s doctor asked me what I wanted – a son or a daughter.
Since I grew up with two brothers and I didn’t have any sisters, I really wanted a daughter. As your Mom was born, the doctor turned to me and let me know that my wish had come true. I was elated. In fact, with Jill and Andrew, I also received exactly what I was hoping for each time.
You were the first of the next generation. Just as I was the oldest in my family, and your Mom the oldest of our children, you are the oldest of your generation – our oldest grandchild. So we have many things in common. Unless you are an oldest child, it’s tough to understand the responsibilities that come with the territory. It is up to you to watch over your younger brothers, to go first, to set a good example for others and, in many cases, to forego your own desires for the sake of the family. There are many hard lessons along the way – a way that you did not choose but was yours by God’s divine providence.
I’m sure that you have witnessed some of those difficult moments in your mother’s life – and mine as well, as you have grown up these past twenty years. It’s a mantle that you haven’t asked for – but it is yours nonetheless. I hope, and pray, that you will never forget the responsibilities that come with your birth order.
So today you turn twenty. In our society, it’s not like sixteen, or even twenty-one, but back in the days of the Old Testament, twenty was an important milestone. For starters, it was the age that boys became men and were now responsible for fighting for Israel. Going to war was part of the responsibility. By the way, have I told you how glad I am that our country isn’t in a place where you have been called up to fight a war?
But twenty year olds in the house of the Levites also had a responsibility to work in the temple. For example, Solomon’s original temple took twenty years to build. And after the 70 years of captivity, those who returned to Jerusalem were charged with rebuilding the temple that had been torn down prior to the Babylonian exile. Men who had attained the age of twenty were chosen to oversee the work on the temple. That was a huge responsibility to thrust upon the shoulders of these young men. But it is a clarion call to announce that the stakes have gone up with your birthday today.
You have now attained an age where your education, discernment and life experiences will be called on to help you make wise decisions in the future. And I have no doubt that you are up to the challenge. My verse for tonight highlights the place in the book of Ezra where we are informed about the expectations of twenty year olds in the house of the Levites back in the day. We are told, in Ezra 3:8, “Now in the second year of their coming to the house of God at Jerusalem in the second month, Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel and Jeshua the son of Jozadak and the rest of their brothers the priests and the Levites, and all who came from the captivity to Jerusalem, began the work and appointed the Levites from twenty years and older to oversee the work of the house of the LORD.”
There is no more important work in the world, Connor, than the work of the Lord. My encouragement tonight is that you will never walk alone. From an earthly perspective, we, your family, will be there every step of the way. We are proud of you and love you beyond your wildest imagination. Of course, the Lord loves you even more than we do! My prayer is that you will always turn to the Lord for the greatest wisdom and discernment you can ever have. His counsel is never wrong and the fact that you are indwelt with the Holy Spirit gives you assurance that your steps are led by God.
Connor, we love you, and are so pleased that you have chosen to walk in the ways of the Lord. Happy Birthday! And to the rest of you, have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…