Spiritual Discipline // CELEBRATION
By Andrea Larson
This quarter one of the disciplines we are studying is celebration. Finally – a Christian discipline that comes naturally to me! I am one of those sorts of people who will look for any excuse to celebrate – I love the cooking, the decorating, the eating and the dancing. At the moment I am writing this, I am staying with two of my grandkids while their parents get a COVID break. To make the visit a celebration, I have brought along a “Mary Poppins bag” filled with activities and prizes. We will all remember these special days when we got to “celebrate” our time together.
Fun is great, but the Christian discipline of celebration is so much more than fun and festivities. Throughout scripture and woven through Jesus’ worldwide Church today, we witness celebrations as moments of commitment and remembrance. Baby dedications are celebrations that witness the commitment of parents and congregation to the raising of a beloved child in the ways of the Lord. Christian marriages are celebrations that reflect on a couple’s love and that initiate commitment – commitments that extend beyond the vows of the marrying couple to one another and to the Lord, but that also encompass the participation of the celebrants in supporting the marriage. And then there is a great party to add to the memories!
This type of celebrating, that is infused with remembrance, gratitude and continued commitment, goes way back in the history of God with His people. The Israelites were commanded by God to remember His faithfulness to them through many festivals and annual celebrations. Shavuot, the Feast of Weeks, is celebrated seven weeks after Passover, commemorating the first fruits of the harvest. Purim marks a celebration of deliverance from Haman and Passover commemorates the Israelites’ deliverance from slavery in Egypt, to name just a few. It is clear that the Lord finds celebration very important.
“Now this day will be a memorial to you, and you shall celebrate it as a feast to the Lord; throughout your generations you are to celebrate it as a permanent ordinance.”Exodus 12:14
As Pastor Isaac’s message on Sunday highlighted the ecumenical character of our pentecostal identity, I thought back on how many opportunities I have had to celebrate with my brothers and sisters from many different denominations. I have had the pleasure of celebrating with family and friends at Lutheran confirmations, Catholic baptisms, Apostolic and Mennonite weddings, Presbyterian and Baptist memorial services and more. As we gather to celebrate these beginnings and endings, our denominational differences fall away and we unite in the Holy Spirit.
Perhaps one of my favorite family memories of celebrating with “God’s people” comes from a time back when our children were little and we attended a Passover meal with Jewish friends. We had participated in Seder services within Christian circles, but to attend this one with our “cousins” in the faith was truly special. As our two towheaded youngest sat with dark-haired Jewish children and eagerly answered questions about Father Abraham and Moses and deliverance from Egypt, the great span of history and time and God’s never ending story were evident in powerful ways. It is a story that led to the arrival of the Messiah and it continues with the spread of the Gospel to the entire world. I am so grateful and excited to be a part of His eternal story – aren’t you? Now, that’s something we can celebrate!
“But his father said to the servants, ‘Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet. And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast, for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.’ So the party began.”Luke 15:22-24
- Consider what it means to you personally to celebrate. Is your idea of a party one in which you remember good things or one where you try to forget bad things?
- Are you a person naturally inclined to celebration or do you prefer solitude? (Keep in mind that solitude is also an important discipline.) Do you think celebration can happen within yourself as an attitude or with just a few people or is a crowd necessary? Remember that Jesus said, “For where two or three gather together as my followers, I am there among them.” Matthew 18:20
- Consider the three elements of Christian celebration described above – remembrance, gratitude and continued commitment. How do you think these factors would apply to something you have celebrated or would like to celebrate?
- As the weekend approaches, think of something you want to celebrate. Even if you are walking through an extremely difficult time, decide that you will remember a blessing from the past or that you will look forward to God’s provision for the future. Choose at least one other person – a spouse, child, friend, etc. – to include in your celebration. Share a meal, sing a song, dance to your favorite music, make a call to your favorite friend… you get the idea. Celebrate. Give thanks. Repeat.
“This is the day which the Lord has made;
Let us rejoice and be glad in it”. Psalm 118:24