Someone asked me this morning, 'Is there a special birthday prayer in the Church of England's Book of Common Prayer?' I've had a look: there's a thanksgiving prayer 'For fair Weather', 'For restoring Publick Peace at Home', 'For Deliverance from the Plague, or other common Sickness' and 'For Rain' (a Lancashire special). But none for birthdays. Perhaps back in 1662 they didn't bother with birthdays. Maybe, like some rural African friends I've had, they didn't even know their birthday or how old they were!
I'm 37 today. As I think back over those years, I'm deeply grateful for the life on earth God has given me. For some (strange) reason, I never expected to live past my 20s; by rights, I never should have - road accidents, hernia, rheumatic fever, measles, malaria, snake bite ... and as I think of other near misses, I'm quite sobered. But here I am with the blessings of a wonderful wife and three children, a great church and exciting ministry, and so much more.
The headstones in the graveyard remind me that plenty have died before this age. I've conducted several funerals of younger people. A birthday is a great opportunity to thank the Lord. He may not give me another - but he has been extremely gracious to allow me what I've had. Nothing on earth is ours to keep. But while he gives us good to enjoy, we thank him.