♫ ♪“Happy birthday to you! Happy birthday to you! Happy birthday, dearYou-oo! Happy birthday to you-oo-oo!” ♫ ♪ You recognized my lovely rendition of the Birthday Song, didn’t you? Consider yourself properly honored by me for your birthday this year!
February is a big birthday month for us in this family. Our first child, Laurie, was born on the 1st. (I won’t tell you how old she is. Let’s just say the year was than four decades ago!) Our first grandson, Benjamin, arrived on February 5th, and Robbie’s birthday is the day after on the 6th. This week we celebrated three birthdays on the 22nd (Hannah Grace, Mandy and Uncle Lee) and on the 28th my sister Carleen will turn—ahem. (Hint—she’s a decade older than Laurie!)
Mandy, our youngest grandchild, turned two on Friday. What a big birthday that is! Birthday #2 is usually the first one where the child recognizes that it is all about her (or him.) Mandy went around all day singing Happy Birthday to herself. She was thrilled with her Minnie Mouse birthday cake. She was thrilled with the balloons and streamers. She was thrilled with her presents. And by the time the whole Naranjo clan began to gather that evening to celebrate the little princess, she was beside herself with excitement. We were able to Skype with her before the party began, and as usual, I was struck with how beautiful those Naranjo kids are, and how quickly they are growing up without us…
From the two-year-old to the oldest celebrating his birthday this week: We will gather this afternoon to celebrate Lee Roy’s 80th birthday. Technically, Lee Roy is not really a Pratt, but he might as well be! Lee and his wife Jo have been my folks’ best friends for over fifty years and as such have celebrated many a birthday, anniversary and holiday with us over the years. We think of their family as part of ours, and our children and grandchildren actually call them Uncle Lee Roy and Aunt Jo. Lee Roy is beloved by all who know him and for good reason. He is a true servant of God—compassionate, caring and with never, ever an unkind word to say about anyone.
Birthdays are certainly exciting for little ones! Kids of all ages enjoy the hoopla, and who doesn’t enjoy a party given in one’s honor? By the time a few gray hairs begin to appear, however, and we begin to feel the effects of the aging process, we start to get over the excitement of another birthday and would just as soon forget the whole thing! (Well, maybe not the gifts. Skip blowing out all those candles and just bring on the presents!)
Our parents and grandparents usually enjoy recalling the day of our birth, but we have no such recollections. All except for my three-year-old great-nephew Isaac, that is. According to him, he remembers even beyond his birth day—all the way back into the womb. He told his mommy this week, “I was in your belly once and it was very dark in there and I didn’t even have a flashlight!”
We may not remember the day we were physically born into this world, but the Bible tells us there are two births—one physical and the other spiritual—and as believers, we ought to remember that special day when we were born again—or at least remember there was a specific moment when we personally accepted Jesus Christ as our Savior. Some children are so young when they ask Jesus into their hearts that although they may have an understanding of what salvation is all about and what they are doing when they make that decision to accept the gift of salvation, they have no remembrance of that event when they are older. Two of my grandsons had that experience. Although their parents remembered well their sincere little confessions of faith, as older children they wanted to remember for themselves. They reconfirmed their acceptance of Christ’s forgiveness, and later were baptized a second time.
I do remember well the day I was saved. It was a beautiful day in October 1958, about a month before my 7th birthday. I sat down on the step of the little platform at the front of the classroom after Children’s Church with my teacher, Mrs. Frank. She told me how to be saved and I prayed to ask Jesus to save me. Most clearly of all, I remember the feeling of a burden being lifted from my shoulders. As a small child, I had not committed any crimes or gross sins, but still that burden of sin was there and I remember a distinct, physical feeling of it being lifted. I remember running for the church bus afterwards, and never had an October Sunday seemed so beautiful to me!
Nicodemus, a religious man himself, came to Jesus searching for answers. John 3 tells us of their encounter. “There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him. Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born? Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.”
Jesus knew Nicodemus’ heart—his intents, his sincerity, his longing for the truth. He knew his past—his training in the Law and his standing as a Pharisee—and told Nicodemus that those things that seemed so righteous in the eyes of the world were for naught. He must be born again spiritually to enter the kingdom of God.
The Bible tells us later in I Peter that nothing of this world can bring about the new birth—it comes only through Christ. “Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you… that your faith and hope might be in God… Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.” (I Peter 1:18-19, 21b, 23)
The spiritual rebirth gives us a new life and makes us new creatures. “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. (II Corinthians 5:17) Spiritual birth opens our eyes to the things of God and brings peace with Him. “For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.” (Romans 8:5-6) And did I mention birthday gifts? Our spiritual birthday includes the best gift of all—eternal life! “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 6:23)
Do you have two birthdays? If you don’t remember the moment you asked forgiveness of your sins and accepted the gift of salvation through the shed blood of Jesus Christ, maybe it’s time you make sure of that decision. The Bible tells us that we can know beyond a shadow of a doubt if we have experienced that new birth through Christ. “And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.” (I John 5:11-13)
Happy Birthday to You-oo! Twice!