We often refer to a funeral service as a “celebration of life,” which is appropriate at a couple of levels. First, it is a celebration of the life the deceased lived. We celebrate the good things they experienced and the good things they did during their years on this earth. Secondly, we celebrate the life (for Christians) they now enjoy... a life more real, more full, and more wonderful than we can imagine. Both of these are worth celebrating, and it is nice we can have that perspective as Christians when our loved ones die.
What we fail to do sometimes is celebrate life as we live it. I am not implying we should party all the time, much less, engage in the type of debauchery so many people associate with a "good celebration." I do, however, think we are missing something in our society. We seem to have missed out on the joy and wonder of the gift of life.
I guess this is freshly on my mind because Sunday is my birthday. I have reached an age where it is possible for me to see and to know a little more of what life is and what life brings. I see my children, who are now adults. I have seen them get married, get pregnant, have children, and live life. We rejoice in every new grandchild and remember and celebrate every birthday. But I am not sure we celebrate the gift of life as fully as we should. I think I see life more clearly and more deeply than I ever have, but still, my celebration of life is lacking.
I had the opportunity to go to Ghana some years ago and discovered that regardless of a person’s given name, they also had a “birthday name.” That is, you had a name based on the day of the week you were born. In Ghana, I might be called Jimmy, but I might also be called Kojo, because I was born on a Monday, and Kojo is the name for one born on a Monday. This is not merely symbolic, as great significance is given to one’s birthday name.
I will always remember being in church in Ghana and having a “birthday offering.” This was a standard practice in the church, and was on top of the regular offering. The regular offering time was celebratory and joyful, but the birthday offering took celebration to a new level for me. When your day was called, or your birthday name was called, all those born on that day of the week would line up at one end of the church.
When the music started, everyone would dance to the front of the church.
With their offering in hand, they deposited it in the basket, dancing back to their seat. Then, the next day of the week would be called and the process would begin again, until one by one, all had a chance to celebrate the life God had given them.
HE GAVE YOU LIFE
Think about that for a moment. Each week, you celebrate, with music and dancing, the fact that God has given you life. And as a part of the celebration, you give Him an offering as a tangible expression of thanksgiving for the life He has given you. Not only that, but every day, most likely, you are called by a name to remind you of and recognize the fact that you have life. I think that is a celebration of life.
I know when things are commonplace, it is easy for them to simply become part of the routine. For me, the very remembrance of that Sunday makes me want to get up, dance a little, and offer to God the best I have for the incredible gift of life.
It makes me want to celebrate my years on this earth, and the richness that life can bring.
It makes me want to celebrate the abundant life promised in Christ, and the eternal life I really can’t even begin to imagine. It reminds me that life is a gift from God in every way, and should be treasured, celebrated, and offered back to the Giver of Life.
Perhaps we should be intentional to celebrate our birthday every day. A little music, a little dancing, a little joyful excitement, and a giving back to God of the life He has given us.