January 16, 2022
It’s not often that a pastor gets to preach on his birthday. Maybe once every seven years, if we don’t’ take that Sunday off. I’m not afraid to share this reality with you because I know I’m on Shirley’s list for the congregation to know. Just be reminded, her birthday is coming up real soon too. It just so happens this year that my birthday is restricted to five people. How do you celebrate your birthday with just five people? And I could increase that to 10 if we plan a social distancing party outside; tobogganing, skating on an outdoor rink, snowshoeing, cross country skiing, or sitting around a nice warm fire wrapped our finest winter wear.
My dad would tell the story of how cold it was the day I was born. He dropped mom off at Belleville General Hospital. When he finally returned home, he discovered the wood stove had burned itself out and underneath the wood stove were three frozen mice. Birthdays were often celebrated in our home with streamers and balloons, a favorite meal, with gifts and cake, giving thanks for the day of our birth. Celebrations change the older we get; they tend to be celebrated over a greater number of days, saving big parties for years ending in 0’s and 5’s. And the older I get, I find myself looking more forward rather than backward. I realize I am closer to the end of my life than when I first began.
I look back and realize so much of what has taken place in my life had less to do with my insights, wisdom and choices, and so much more to do with God’s generosity, goodness and grace. There is less time to complete unfinished goals and dreams yet fulfilled. There are still more birds to see. There is a greater urgency to right past wrongs, to grow more intimately with an infinite God, and to influence more with the bounty of the Spirit’s transforming powers. And I stand in wonder and amazement at how much of the love of Jesus has been poured into my heart in and through those closest to me, including my mom and my dad, my siblings, my wife Sue, our five children with their spouses, and multiplied again through grandchildren. And all of this is strengthened, nurtured and celebrated each week again, with God’s people in worship, fellowship and friendship. The older I get, the more I wonder what life everlasting might look like in a New Heaven and New Earth. And that’s when I’m reminded of just how young and unknowing, and naïve I really am. The more birthdays I have, the deeper my gratitude becomes.