The current edition of the Living Church News has an article titled Birthdays and God’s Church by Rod McNair, that states:
Should Christians celebrate birthdays? What does the Church teach on this topic? What does your Bible say? It is a fact of life that everyone grows older, and on one day a year we are considered a year older than the day before. There is nothing wrong with acknowledging the passage of time, as another year of life goes by. We know, for example, that Moses certainly knew his birthdate…
Moses simply acknowledged his age. By contrast, many in the world today have grown used to the idea that their day of birth is an occasion on which friends, family members and coworkers are expected to lavish them with attention, gifts and revelry. What can we learn from Scripture about observing birthdays? Jesus Christ did not mark the anniversary of His birth, nor did He make reference to it in any such fashion. Nor did any of the Apostles so much as even mention Christ’s birth date or their own…
Does the book of Job indicate that Job’s sons observed their birthdays? Some point to this verse to support that idea: “And his sons would go and feast in their houses, each on his appointed day” (Job 1:4). Is “his appointed day” a vague reference to a birthday? Scripture does not say. However, we should also note that, if this is a “birthday” example, it is not entirely positive regarding the idea of birthday celebrations— we see that Job offered sacrifi ces afterward, on the assumption that his sons may have “sinned and cursed God in their hearts” while feasting (v. 5)…
But even some casual observers have noticed that the early Church taught against participation in such birthday celebrations as are so common in our world today. As writer Norm Schneider points out: “During the Christian era, the early followers of Christ didn’t believe in celebrating birthdays, preferring—as was the case in earlier eras—of honoring one’s death. Their belief was that only in death was there true deliverance worthy of honoring one’s ‘death day’ [a reference to Ecclesiastes 7:1, where Solomon asserts that the day of one’s death is better than the day of one’s birth]. They also believed that Egyptian and Greek birthday celebrations were pagan festivals and should not be duplicated” (“The Strange Origins of Our Modern Birthday Customs,” August 13, 2008, www.associatedcontent.com).
Schneider goes on to observe that by “the fourth century, Christians—having generally agreed on the date of Christ’s birth—began celebrating the event, ergo Christmas.” Indeed, the observance of Christmas and the celebration of birthdays went hand in hand as the vast majority of professing Christians fell into apostasy. Today, billions of people who call themselves “Christians” are keeping Christmas to have, in effect, a sort of “birthday party for Christ.” However, when we read what Scripture tells us about the young Jesus Christ, we find no precedent for such celebration. What do we find? When they saw the young Jesus, the wise men from the East “fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh” (Matthew 2:11). This was a momentous event, but it was not a birthday party—these were prominent men coming to visit the King. The custom of bringing a gift when coming before a king is still in practice today…
Accordingly, God does not want His people to become involved in worldly practices that lead to the destruction of character. Worldly birthday festivities, under the guise of a “party spirit,” are often focused on greed—the desire for gifts and attention—as well as on vanity, selfishness and a wrong spirit of competition. Such attitudes are inappropriate for Christians as part of any celebration, not just birthday celebrations! God makes it plain that Christians are not to take part in “lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries” (1 Peter 4:3). We know from Scripture that covetousness is idolatry (Colossians 3:5)…
A balanced perspective on this issue can be found in an example cited by our Presiding Evangelist, Dr. Roderick C. Meredith in the January-February 2011 Ministerial Bulletin: “…we also know that Mr. Armstrong gave his mother a dozen red roses on her birthdays, occasionally, and sometimes took her out for a nice dinner at the restaurant simply to honor her on such an occasion. It was not a ‘birthday party’ with candles, exchanging of presents and so forth. It was simply noting that God had given her another year of life and encouraging her and honoring her in that way. Often, we have stated that our own people may have a special meal prepared by the mother in the home for a child on his or her birthday and express thanks that our child has had another year of life” (p. 2). Certainly, it can be appropriate for parents to reminisce with their children about past joys and challenges of a child’s life, as well as future plans and goals, when the child grows a year older.
As for his own example, Dr. Meredith mentioned in his July 21, 2008 sermon, titled “Building Faith and Courage,” that he had just turned 78 years of age, but without a birthday party. On the other hand, as noted above, he has acknowledged that it can indeed be appropriate for families to acknowledge a child’s growth and development on a birth date, just as it can be worthwhile to honor an elderly person at a milestone in his or her life—in a Christian spirit of true love and respect, without getting caught up in the spirit of carnal celebrations that often go far beyond what is appropriate.
Originally, even as more and more Gentiles began to profess Christ (so much so that they outnumbered those of Jewish heritage that did), the early Gentile leaders also did not endorse the celebration of birthdays. No early church writer endorsed the observance of birthdays by Christians, nor are they ever listed in the early observances of the Christian church.
Therefore, the celebration of birthdays, was clearly not part of:
… the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3).
No early religious/church writing from the second century that I have seen (and I have read most that are available) seems to endorse (or even suggest) the celebration of birthdays by any who professed Christ. Actually, the only comments I tended to find showed that such observances were condemned (as late as the late third century).
There is no biblical, nor historical, evidence that early Gentile converts to true Christianity observed birthdays.
Since early Christian did not celebrate birthdays, should you?
Some articles of possibly related interest may include:
Did Early Christians Celebrate Birthdays? Did biblical era Jews celebrate birthdays? Who originally celebrated birthdays? When did many that profess Christ begin birthday celebrations?
Do You Practice Mithraism? Many practices and doctrines that mainstream so-called Christian groups have are the same or similar to those of the sun-god Mithras. Do you follow Mithraism combined with the Bible or original Christianity?
The History of Early Christianity Are you aware that what most people believe is not what truly happened to the true Christian church? Do you know where the early church was based? Do you know what were the doctrines of the early church? Is your faith really based upon the truth or compromise?