Spiritual Disciplines: Celebration
David retorted to Michal, “I was dancing before the Lord, who chose me above your father and all his family! He appointed me as the leader of Israel, the people of the Lord, so I celebrate before the Lord. Yes, and I am willing to look even more foolish than this, even to be humiliated in my own eyes!” ~ 2 Samuel 6:21-22a
Perhaps you’ve heard of the Old Testament practice of the year of Jubilee. It’s a practice which happened once every 50 years in the Jewish faith and had, at its core, a celebration of all God had done and provided for His people. Debts were forgiven, slaves were set free, property was returned to the original owner, and even the land was allowed to rest as crops were not planted. There are some parts of that which sound great and most of us would be 100% on board to adopt, at least in spirit, in today’s world. A chance to start over, debt free? Yes please! Slaves set free? Should have happened worldwide hundreds of years ago! Getting property back which was sold by the previous generation? Sounds wonderful.
But what about the flip side of that equation? Would you be just as excited for Jubilee if it meant you were never going to get paid back what was owed you? Would you be willing to return land and property back to the family from which you purchased it? Put yourself in the shoes of these people and ponder how excited you would be about an upcoming year of Jubilee. Would you be, dare I say it, jubilant? Would you be in the mood for a year of celebrating all that God has done?
The year of Jubilee was about more than restricting social arrangements to bring each generation to a more level playing ground, it was about liberating the people of God from their love of possessions and celebrating God’s faithfulness to provide for all of their needs, both big and small. It is about allowing each generation to learn, for themselves, that they truly can cast all their cares upon God because He cares for each and every one of us. It is in this realization which one is able to celebrate in a way which brings joy to life.
As much as sacrifice and struggle have been part of the Israelite’s story through history, so to has the discipline of celebration been part of their story. The feasts of Purim, Passover, and Chanukah are still celebrated today in Jewish households, each celebrating and remembering a key time in their history where God’s faithfulness provided a way forward. In a world where it can so easy to forget all that God has done for us, celebrations have the ability to anchor us in a deeper story where we are reminded of God’s power to provide.
So how do we recapture this discipline of celebration? We could start off by following the example of young children. They sing, they dance, they shout. There is nothing better in this world than, upon pulling up to my sister’s house, to hear my young nieces screaming “Auntie Sara is here!” as they bolt out the door and run to greet me before I’m even fully out of the car. The next 30 minutes are filled with each girl trying to out-do her sisters with exclamations of “Auntie Sara, look at this!” and “Watch me Auntie Sara!” Not celebrating my arrival is not an option.
We can laugh, it’s been proven to help us heal. We can embrace creativity and imagination as we allow artists and musicians to see life in a different way beyond the right here and right now. When we gather as family and friends, we can make those times of celebration and thanksgiving for both big events, like major holidays or milestone birthdays, and small events, such getting a promotion at work or a beautiful Friday afternoon perfect for firing up the grill. Don’t let the festivals and celebrations of your community go unappreciated. Perhaps you don’t want to join the crowds but don’t let that stop you from celebrating the 4th of July, Christmas, Easter, or your town’s 150th anniversary in a way which is fun and enjoyable for you.
When Jesus was born, there was celebration both in heaven with the angel’s song and on earth as the shepherds left their flocks to gather around the new family. It was a celebration because God had become man and entered our world to redeem it. And it is when this redemption is embraced and experienced in our lives we are able to truly celebrate.
- How do you celebrate holidays and milestones in your life? Do you find joy in those celebrations? How can take celebrations which seem obligatory and find real joy in them?
- Richard Foster says that one of the most important benefits of celebration is that it saves us from taking ourselves too seriously. What areas of your life need a little more celebration and little less seriousness?
- There is a difference between celebrating the bad things which happen in life and encouraging people to look at the bigger picture of life and faith to make sense of the bad things which happen. How do you live in a spirit of Thanksgiving in the midst of all situations without celebrating the presence of evil?
- Check out this perspective on the importance of celebration from a member to the band Rend Collective
Helpful Resources Used:
- Chapter 13 of "Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth" by Richard J. Foster.
- "The Spiritual Discipline of Celebration" by Elaine Heath on www.ministrymatters.com
- " Celebration is a Spiritual Discipline" by Dorothy Greco on relevantmagazine.com
- " Understanding Celebration" by Richard J. Foster on renovare.org
- "What was the Year of Jubilee?" by Hope Bolinger on www.christianty.com