Should Christians Celebrate
SEARCH your Bible! How many birthday celebrations do you find? A Pharaoh in Egypt celebrates his birthday by hanging his chief baker (Gen. 40).
Herod, on his birthday, grants the request of the daughter of Herodias and orders John the Baptist beheaded (Matt. 14:6-10).
Only two definite birthday celebrations in the entire Bible!
The children of Job may have been celebrating the birthday of the eldest son, when, by God's express permission, Satan caused a great blast of wind to collapse the house upon them, killing all ten (Job 1:4-19).
Job had been concerned about these activities of his children. After their feasting "Job sent and sanctified them . . . and offered burnt offerings . . . for Job said, 'It may be that my sons have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts.'" Solomon with all his wisdom wrote, "It is better to go to the house of mourning, than . . . the house of feasting" (Ecc. 7:2).
Job actually cursed his birthdate saying, "Let the day perish wherein I was born, and the night in which it was said, 'There is a man child conceived'" (Job 3:3).
The Jews in Christ's day knew God's law forbids celebrating birthdays. Josephus, the Jewish historian of the first century, declares: "Nay, indeed, the law does not permit us to make festivals at the births of our children . . ." (Against Apion, book II, §26).
No Date for Jesus' Birth!
It will come as a shock to many. Do you know that no mention of the date of Jesus' birth as a human being is found anywhere in the Bible? The traditional celebration of December 25 does not come from the Bible, but from paganism!
The day of Jesus' birth is unknown. But the day of His death (Nisan 14, A.D. 31) Jesus asked His disciples to observe annually-"in remembrance of Me." It is to show His DEATH-not His birthday or His resurrection-that Christ commanded His disciples to continue the annual observance of the Passover meal with the symbols of unleavened bread and wine (Luke 22:19,20).
The original passover lamb was slain as a type of Christ's great sacrifice. The apostle Paul explained, "Christ OUR PASSOVER is sacrificed for us"-and then went on to explain further the proper manner of our annual observance of the day the Saviour died as our Passover Lamb (I Cor. 5:7, 8). What a contrast to the modern custom of birthday celebration! Not a single mention is ever made in the Bible of the exact date in terms of the month and day upon which any individual was born! Think of it! Isn't this strange when compared with the modern custom in which each takes pride in the attainment of another birthday?
Attached to This World
We live in a world today that is geared to the Roman calendar. We remember the date of our birth, pay our taxes and have our tombstones engraved with the day we die-all in accord with a pagan Roman system of calculating time.
"But isn't our Roman calendar of Christian origin?" many ask. "Doesn't it have the approval of almost all Christian sects?"
The Roman calendar in use today is pagan in origin! It begins with January 1 in honor of the birth of the new sun! The sun is now dropping lower and lower in the southern portion of the sky. The days are becoming shorter, but on December 21 (according to the present Roman calendar) the southward movement stops and a new year begins. January 1 is in honor of the return of the sun! As our ancestors worshipped the sun, so our people today drink toasts to this pagan new year and make vows-New Year's Resolutions-in celebration of the return of the sun to its northern course. Where do you find such a custom sanctioned in the Bible?
History answers: "Our (Roman) calendar is not Christian in origin. It descends directly from the Egyptians, who originated the 12 month year, 365 day system. A pagan Egyptian scientist, Sosigenes, suggested this plan to the pagan Emperor Julius Caesar, who directed that it go into effect throughout the Roman Empire in 45 B.C. As adopted it indicated its pagan origin by the names of the months-called after Janus, Maia, Juno, etc. The days were not named but numbered on a complicated system involving Ides, Nones, and Calends. It was not until 321 A.D that the seven-day-week feature was added, when the Emperor Constantine (supposedly) adopted Christianity. Oddly enough for his weekdays he chose pagan names which are still used." (From "Journal of Calendar Reform," Sept. 1953, footnote p. 128. Italics ours.)
Further study brings one to the realization that the entire Roman calendar is of pagan origin with the single exception of the seven-day-week feature. Ironically, the "Journal of Calendar Reform" would have men give up this feature also by adopting their World Calendar. This proposed calendar contains one day each year (two in leap years) that is not counted as a day of the week. The seven day cycle of the week which has persisted since creation would then be broken. The World Calendar has features which look right to men, but in adopting it the one remaining feature of keeping time God's way-the weekly cycle-would be lost. It would be a totally heathen calendar.
In following this Roman calendar in our daily lives we make use of the pagan names attached to the days of the week and months of the year. Sunday, Moonday, Tiwsday, Wodensday, Thorsday, Friggasday, Saturnsday are all titles given by the pagans to the seven days of the week. The single designation given in the Scriptures was the term Sabbath to the seventh day of the week; all others were termed first day of the week, second day of the week, etc.
Consider the tactics of our arch-enemy, Satan. His work of deceptions pervades every field of endeavor, every practice, every custom, everything we deal with in life. Think back. Doesn't January 1 completely overshadow in our minds the date God ordained for ancient Israel that a new year should begin. Probably only a handful of us took note at sunset on the evening of April 9 this year of 1959 that a new year was beginning. The calendar given by God to Moses has been perpetuated by the Jewish people though they observe the beginning of their civil year six months later in fall rather than follow the command of God to consider this spring date as the beginning of the new year. "This month shall be the beginning of months: it shall be the first month of the year to you" (Exodus 12:2).
What Is the Correct Attitude?
What is the correct evaluation of the day upon which we were born? The Bible merely states that "the day of death . . . is better . . . than the day of one's birth" (Ecc. 7:1). Yet our birth into this world seems to be an important day to us. Yes, the day we first drew a breath of air and began this physical life does have some importance. But we need to understand why the day of death is BETTER. How can this be? What wisdom had God given to Solomon to see a principle here that escapes us?
Notice the answer from the apostle Paul. Paul writes, upon nearing death, "I have fought a good fight (in overcoming his human nature in this life), I have finished my course, I have kept the faith. Henceforth THERE IS LAID UP FOR ME A CROWN OF RIGHTEOUSNESS, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day (the day of Christ's return; the day of the resurrection of the dead): and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing" (II Tim. 4:7, 8).
The day Paul began his carnal life as a baby could hardly be compared in importance with the day he, at death, made certain his reward by enduring the problems and trials of a Christian life to the end!
a God-Given Calendar?
The calendar given by God to Israel in the time of Moses was not at all adapted to birthday celebrations. Have you pitied the "unfortunate" individual who was born on February 29 and could receive gifts and congratulations only once every four years? This single irregularity of February 29 in the Roman calendar affects but about one individual in 1461.
But the irregularities of the calendar God gave would affect the birthday observance of one person in every eight!
The calendar still in use by the Jewish people today is fundamentally the same one God gave to Moses for the children of Israel. But why isn't this calendar suitable for birthday observance? The Roman calendar has a single month, February, that varies in length according to a simple one year in four pattern. God's sacred Calendar committed to the Jews for preservation to our time has three months that vary in length from 29 to 30 days after a rather complicated pattern. Three times as many people are affected.
A still greater deterrent to annual birthday observance is the insertion of a 13th month in the 3rd, 6th, 8th, 11th, 14th, 17th, and 19th years of a 19-year cycle. Imagine the confusion of attempting to schedule birthday parties!
It is true that some Jewish people, following pagan customs, attempt to use this ancient calendar to observe their birthdays. A rather intricate set of human rules governs whether to move the celebration ahead or back one day, or back one month in the absence of the 13th month. Differing regulations are applied and the practice is not uniformly followed by all.
What wisdom prompted God to give mankind such a calendar?
It certainly discouraged the practice of observing birthdays and other anniversaries! The net result was to deprive mankind of the privilege of setting aside birthdays!
God 's people certainly knew the date of their birth, but they kept track of their age by calendar years, not birth dates.
But for those who understood, the whole purpose of life was to prepare for and look forward to a new birth, to a resurrection from the dead.
Job looked forward to the time of his re-birth; "I know that my redeemer (Christ) liveth, and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth (referring to Christ at His second coming soon to occur): and though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God" (Job 19:25, 26) A better rendering of the Hebrew would be "yet apart from this flesh shall I see God."
Also in chapter 14, verses 14 and 15, "If a man die, shall he live again? all the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come. Thou shalt call, and I will answer thee (referring to the time when Christ will call, and all that are in their graves will hear His voice and come forth in a resurrection): thou wilt have a desire to the work of thine hands."
Instead of looking backward to a physical birth into this temporary life where we are composed of dust, this man understood the true values of life and looked forward to a re-birth into life eternal as spirit beings and members of the Kingdom of God. The patriarchs are still in their graves looking forward to the only birthday that really counts.
This is the event you should be looking forward to-not looking backward each year to the time of your entry into this existence from the dust!