There are two marks of true celebration: a complete and utter release from a feeling of care and concern and a sense of joy that bubbles up and bursts from our hearts. In the Bible God actually commands that the Israelites gather to celebrate communally every year and that the congregate to throw a huge celebration for the Year of Jubilee every seven years. This idea that celebration can be a command and can be a discipline is strange. It seems odd at first to thing about forcing ourselves to celebrate, to put effort into experiencing joy.
Richard J. Foster explains that real celebration can not be forced. When it is, the result is not God honoring and not life giving. It must flow from our connection to Christ and our experience of living in His will. This is why celebration is a discipline, it requires us to follow Paul’s admonition to set our minds on the things of Christ: things that are good, lovely, just and true. Forster writers that “[celebration] is the result of a consciously chosen way of thinking and living.” When we are trusting God, when we know we are in God’s will we are freer to live, to think and to experience the joy in life around us.
God’s commands to celebrate in scripture are never demanded in a vacuum. They are coupled with reasons to trust in God’s provision and to live fully in God’s will. The Israelites celebrated God’s liberation from Egypt, God’s providence and salvation through Mordecai and Esther (in the book of Esther), they celebrated God’s presence with them in the desert and God’s incredible restoration through the Year of Jubilee when every slave was freed, every debt was forgiven and every inheritance was restored every seven years.
Our celebration can also come from stopping to remember the good things God has done and the gifts that God has given us. It can come from recognizing how we have experienced God’s salvation or freedom. It can also come from catching a glimpse of the way God has provided for us physically, mentally and spiritually. We can dance and revel in our God given ability to move, we can sing and praise God’s love, we can also laugh at the beautiful and ridiculous gifts of art and humor God has given us through other people’s intellects and imaginations, we can gather with friends or family and find small ways to cherish the gifts of life and community God has lavished on us.
It is these practices that we build our ability to experience God’s joy. In turn, the experience of God’s joy builds our faith and strengthens us to live more fully in God’s will. It becomes a feedback loop of ever expanding trust and celebration.
Exercise for today:
Choose something to celebrate today. Whether it is calling a good friend for chat and spending time remembering your best times together, watching your favorite comedy movie to laugh at the brilliance of the writers and actors or singing or playing along to your favorite music – find a way to connect to your joy through engaging in a thankful celebration of the good things God has created.