It’s my birthday today. Perhaps I should be embarrassed about this, but there’s a song that always come to mind on my birthdays, “It’s my party, and I’ll cry if I want to…” It’s Lesley Gore’s iconic song “It’s My Party.”
It captures the individualism and self-centeredness of our culture. “It’s my birthday, so I should be the center of attention.” “It’s my birthday, so I can do whatever I want.” “It’s my birthday, so everyone should make me happy.”
I feel the tug all day long: “It’s my birthday, honey, could you please soothe our crying baby?” “It’s my birthday, can I have my favorite meal?”
Even for the more decorous among us, birthdays become occasions for shameless self-promotion. People who usually frown upon our aggrandized sense of self-importance, now turn a blind eye. We uncage and let the selfish beast within us roam free.
I am not one to pass up a good excuse to hang out with my friends and family. Nor do I think that celebrating and expressing appreciation for someone you love is wrong in any way.
There is a humility in letting those who love you serve you and express their appreciation for you. It would be rude and selfish to spurn their heartfelt gestures! But there is also an attitude of entitlement that is sinful.
Christians follow a Savior who “came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). We follow the God who “became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14) and was born in a lowly manger (Luke 2:17).
We are called to “deny [ourselves] and take up [our] cross and follow [Christ]” (Matthew 16:24). And this command does not lose its force on our birthdays.
What if our orientation on our birthdays was self-denial, rather than self-indulgence? What if we were God-centered on our birthdays, rather than self-centered? What if we not only received, but also gave? What if we served others, even as they were serving us? What if we, rather than demanding preferential treatment as our right, acknowledged that savory food, thoughtful presents, and dear friends are all gracious gifts from God that we do not deserve?
That would be a birthday worth celebrating.