“Jesus answered him, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.’” (John 3:3 NIV)
I used to love celebrating birthdays. It isn’t the custom to celebrate birthdays in the Southeast Asian culture where I was born, but it was a practice I quickly adopted when I came to North America. Things have changed, even in my country, where it seems everyone celebrates birthdays now.
I was never really all that eager to celebrate my own birthday. This is due, in part, to the fact that I don’t even know the exact date of my birth. Due to the ongoing war in Cambodia, my parents forgot my day of birth and my birth certificate was lost.
I still like to celebrate with others on their special day. The last birthday party I was at was for a Christian brother. As we were celebrating, the question occurred to me that since we are born again, shouldn’t we count our spiritual age from the date of our salvation and celebrate our birth in the Spirit from the day of our baptism?
Am I going off the road of Christian theology?
Maybe. I can’t find anything about spiritual birthdays in the Bible or anywhere else. As a result, I tried to put the whole thought behind me and continued to celebrate birthdays.
Unfortunately, the question wouldn’t go away. I began to meditate on the idea of BC and AC, and I began to do some research on the internet. Here is some of what I found.
First of all, I learned that the idea of counting years has been around for as long as we have written records, but the idea of standardizing the way we count the years is relatively new. Today the international standard is to designate years is based on a traditional reckoning of the year Jesus was born — the “A.D.” and “B.C.” system. By the 15th century, all of Western Europe had adopted the B.C./A.D. system, and in 1988, it would become an international standard.
There are some, however, who prefer more neutral terminology that is inclusive of non-Christian people, and the terms “CE” (Current or Common Era) and “BCE” (Before the Common or Current Era” have gained some popularity. Though the reference to Christ is removed, the years are still the same as with the A.D./B.C. system.
Prior to the standardization of time, however, there were many other calendars. The Jewish people have their own calendar. So do the Chinese and Southeast Asian people. Some only count 15 days in a month. We can only imagine how questions of actual age arose for people as the calendar was literally changed in front of their eyes!
I feel the calendar change gives honor to God’s name. We can see every nation going through their daily lives using the A.D. calendar. It is in our passports, on our phones, in our appointment books, and so on.
Here is an important question to ponder:
Do I glorify God in celebrating my date of physical birth from my mother’s womb? Am I glorying God for celebrating my birthday count from my mother womb? Or do I glorify God in celebrating my spiritual birthday?
In my mind, it seems that celebrating my spiritual birthday would bring a lot more glory to God than celebrating my physical birthday. Matthew 6:36 tells us: “But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.” (NIV)
O Heavenly Father, may the Holy Spirit help us to give your Son Christ Jesus the glory: “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!” (Rev 5:13 NIV), not with just our words, but with our actions as well, including our actions in celebrating our truth birthday, our birthday into God’s kingdom, the day we were born again. We ask this in Jesus Christ’s name, to God be the glory! Amen.
Sophie Chun Ngeth