At the beginning of each year I ask God for a word, a theme that I hope will give me focus for the coming days. This year my word is “celebration”. You can imagine my relief when I felt God impress this word on my heart. Last year my word was reconciliation and as I am sure many of you remember, we were faced with some challenging situations that forced us to grapple with questions like: What would a gospel reconciler do?
Celebration sounds so light and joyous. Lots of fun, food and fellowship I thought. Then as I pondered my word I was reminded that for the Israelites celebration was not just about the good things of life. Evidently they celebrated everything good and everything bad that marked their journey. Celebration was about remembering the past, rejoicing in the present and anticipating the future.
I mark the anniversary of my mother’s death, with celebration. I look back through the memory book I put together for her 90th birthday, remind myself of the joyful occasions we shared together and enter into the joy of my remembrances.
When we only celebrate the good, and only able to find joy in happy experiences often live superficial lives. It is learning to celebrating the challenging and sometimes painful events that strengthens our characters and draws us closer to God.
What is your response?
Sit for a moment and contemplate the joys and sorrows of your own life. What kinds of events do you celebrate? In what ways do you embrace both the good and the challenging and find the joy of life hidden in the most unlikely places? Allow these memories to surface and ask God to help you plan some new celebrations.
Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls! Hebrews 12:1-3 The Message
It seems to me that for Jesus and the early disciples, joy and celebration was an attitude rather than an event. We celebrate not because life is necessarily providing all the good things we want but because God is good, and the joy of walking the journey towards the new world of God should fill us with joy at every step. Light and dark, night and day are all part of God’s creation, to be celebrated with joy. Every breath that we take, every sight that we see, every activity we participate in tells us so.
What is your response?
Watch the video below, one of my favourite celebrative hymns. No matter how I feel it lifts my spirit into a place of joyous celebration. As you listen to it, what emotions does it provoke in you? In what ways does it invite you into a joyous celebration of God’s eternal presence? Is there a response that God is asking of you?