It is not insignificant that we celebrate birthdays – although I must admit I have reached the age where I’d rather not be reminded of mine. But seriously, birthdays are important to celebrate because they do serve as a reminder – a reminder that each of us is a child of God born into this world for a purpose. We celebrate not only to honor the person being celebrated, but also to celebrate ourselves and the gift of life we have been given.
In the story of the Passover God instructed the Israelites, who at the time were living as slaves in the land of Egypt, to slaughter a lamb and to then smear some of its blood on the doorframes of their homes. By doing so they would avoid the plague that would kill all the first-borns within the households of Egypt. “The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt.” (Exodus 12:13)
Of equal importance to the Passover itself God also commanded that “This is a day you are to commemorate; for the generations to come you shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord – a lasting ordinance.” (Exodus 12:14) God’s instruction to institute the feast of the Passover as an annual celebration event was for the purpose of reminding people from then on of His mercy toward them and their freedom from Egyptian bondage.
Just last week we celebrated the birth of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., surely one of the most significant Americans in our nation’s history. Next month we celebrate the births of our Presidents, and in July we will celebrate the birth of our nation. Why do we set aside these days as festive events? We do so to commemorate so the generations to come will not forget those remarkable people and events that made and sustained our nation’s freedom.
It is important that we never forget the significance of our individual lives, or those who have gone before, those who sacrificed on behalf of the rest of us, and especially the God who created life. Celebrations, festivals, and traditions ensure that we will never forget. They serve as reminders.