Let it be noted—Colorado is amazing.
For those of you that may have missed last week’s Pastoral Notes, Christy and I took our daughter, Katie, on a twelve-year-old birthday trip to a ranch in Colorado last weekend. We rode horses, fished, and soaked up the mountain vistas complete with the Aspen trees aflame with color. It was truly spectacular.
More than the activities or environs, it was the occasion—a birthday—that made this time so special. The older I get the more I appreciate birthday celebrations, not just mine but others. Writing that just now feels a bit strange, since birthday celebrations are more often associated with the young. I guess what I mean is that the passing of a year means more to me now than it used to, and so marking that time with some sort of celebration carries more significance than it once did.
I’m struck by the fact that when we celebrate a birthday, we’re not honoring an achievement like a graduation. In an occasion like that we’re saying, “Look at what you’ve done! Let’s celebrate!” But when it comes to a birthdays, we’re celebrating the person. We’re saying, “Look at you! Your life matters to us. We’re grateful that you are you.” There’s something really powerful and grace giving about such an experience.
Birthdays are also a yearly opportunity to reflect on God’s lavish goodness. It’s appropriate on a birthday to look back and recount God’s provisions, preservations, and promotions over the last year. For the one having the birthday, it’s an opportunity to pause and say to God, “I don’t take this life for granted. Thank you for giving me the gift of life.”
When you think of birthdays in this way, it makes sense why Jesus chose to use birth as a metaphor for salvation in John 4. That unless we are “born again” we can’t even see the kingdom of God. And just like in normal birthdays, we’re celebrating the person—the person of Jesus Christ. But unlike our birthdays, we’re also celebrating not just the person—but what he’s done, the salvation he’s won for us. We’re saying, “Look at you! Look at what you’ve done! You are my life and my salvation. I owe it all to you.”
As we gather for worship, we are, in a sense, remembering and rehearsing together the new birth we share in Jesus Christ. We are saying to God, “I don’t take this life for granted. Thank you for giving me the gift of life—the real, true, abundant life that is only found in Jesus Christ.” More than any other birth, the new birth is one worth celebrating. Not just once a year but every day.