Since April is my birth month, I was curious to look up birthdays in Scripture. The birth of Jesus was celebrated by shepherds, angels, magi, a mysterious star in the sky, and of course by his mother, Mary, and his earthly father, Joseph. But the word “birthday” appears in the Bible just three times: the birthday of Pharaoh in ancient Egypt (Exodus 40:20) and the birthday of King Herod in the time of Jesus (Matthew 14:6, Mark 6:21).
At one time, Christians did not celebrate birthdays because birthday celebrations were rooted in pagan religion. For example, the tradition of lighting birthday candles most likely began with the ancient Greeks who lit candles on cakes in honour of the Greek goddess, Artemis. Today a birthday cake with candles is not seen as idolatry any more than sending a birthday card or giving a gift, or the tradition from my Chinese background of celebrating birthdays with longevity noodles as a symbol for long life. I often share words of blessing for a birthday, and some of my friends invite donations to a worthy cause to celebrate their special day.
While these kinds of birthday traditions do not appear in Scripture, the Psalms do speak of time passing and the blessing of years, which seem very fitting as part of a birthday celebration. Here are my ten favourite Happy Birthday verses from the Psalms–to ponder for your own birthday or to bless someone else on theirs.
You show me the path of life.
In your presence there is fullness of joy;
in your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
One thing I ask from the Lord,
this only do I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to gaze on the beauty of the Lord
and to seek him in his temple.
Show me, Lord, my life’s end
and the number of my days;
let me know how fleeting my life is.
You have made my days a mere handbreadth;
the span of my years is as nothing before you.
Everyone is but a breath,
even those who seem secure.
But surely, God is my helper;
the Lord is the upholder of my life.
You crown the year with a bountiful harvest;
even the hard pathways overflow with abundance.
The grasslands of the wilderness become a lush pasture,
and the hillsides blossom with joy.
You got me when I was an unformed youth,
God, and taught me everything I know.
Now I’m telling the world your wonders;
I’ll keep at it until I’m old and gray.
Teach us to number our days,
that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
Call me and I’ll answer, be at your side in bad times;
I’ll rescue you, then throw you a party.
I’ll give you a long life,
give you a long drink of salvation!
Those who are devoted to God will flourish like budding date-palm trees;
they will grow strong and tall like cedars in Lebanon.
Those planted in the house of the Eternal
will thrive in the courts of our God.
They will bear fruit into old age;
even in winter, they will be green and full of sap
To display that the Eternal is righteous.
He is my rock, and there is no shadow of evil in Him.
For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
Writing/Reflection Prompt: Which of these Scripture verses most resonate with you today?
For more on everyday acts of faith,