The latest polls indicate that the popularity of Jesus is on the rise, while that of his followers is in rapid decline. The world looks at Christians and doesn’t see anything very attractive. In part, there are too many angry Christians who walk around with a frown on their faces. That’s unfortunate because one of the most important spiritual disciplines is that of celebration.
The Christian Church is known more for what she is against more than what she is for — more for whom she excludes than for all the good she has done in the world. Jesus told his disciples that the thing he wanted them to be known for was “how you love each other” (John 13:35).
Celebration is at the heart of the Jesus story. Jesus came into the world on a high note of celebration — “I bring you good news of great joy,” cried the angel, “which shall come to all the people” (Luke 2:10). Jesus left the world with the promise of joy to his disciples: “These things I have spoken to you that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be full” (John 15:11).
Celebration brings joy to life. The Bible tells us that “the joy of the Lord is our strength” (Neh. 8:10). You can’t make it very far in the Christian life without the joy that comes from celebrating.
We’ve all experienced enduring some great difficulty because we knew that there would be joy at the other end. You take piano lessons and practice your scales over and over again, not because you want to, but because you know it will help you learn to play the piano. At the other end of long, grueling piano practice is the joy of being able to play some beautiful song.
Jesus modeled this. The Scripture says that he died on the cross because he knew that there would be joy at the other end. The writer of Hebrews tells us to fix our eyes on Jesus because he is the source of our faith. He then goes on to explain — “For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:2).
It is no surprise then that Joy is part of the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22). Foster puts it this way: “Often I am inclined to think that joy is the motor, the thing that keeps everything else going. Without joyous celebration to infuse the other Disciplines, we will sooner or later abandon them. Joy produces energy. Joy makes us strong” (Celebration of Discipline, Foster, p. 191).
The Path to Celebration
The first step to joy is obedience. Jesus tells us that if we love him we will obey him (John 14:8) and that when we obey him we will know his joy.
One day Jesus was teaching a crowd and a woman shouted, “Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you.” Jesus responded, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it” (Luke 11:27-28).
Joy is found in obedience.
Some try to get to joy too soon. It is the fruit of the labor of the Spiritual Disciplines. Joy is earned through years of faithful obedience to the voice of Jesus.
The Apostle Paul called us to “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Phil. 4:4). He then said that the secret to rejoicing is to “not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:6-7)
Jesus, of course, said the same thing (Matt. 6:25).
The Apostle Paul gave us a strategy for dealing with anxiety. He wrote: “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (Phil. 4:8).
Celebrate the good that God has created!
The Benefits of Celebration
1. Celebration keeps us from taking ourselves too seriously.
There are too many rigid, uptight Christians walking around as if Christianity were a ball and chain wrapped around their lives. These Christians often come across as stuffy and boring.
The Christian has more to celebrate than any other person on earth. We should be the freest and most alive and most interesting people in any room. Celebration reminds us of this by giving us permission to have fun!
After all, Jesus was consistently accused of being a glutton and attending too many parties! Many Christians lead such sour and boring lives that they could never be accused of that.
2. Celebration can also help with periodic times of depression or sadness.
Clinical depression is a serious condition and should be treated by a professional. But, the ability to celebrate your life in Jesus can help.
3. Celebration can give us perspective.
It puts us in our place. We are all important to God and we all have worthy lives. A party is a great leveler between rich and poor, strong and weak.
The Practice of Celebration
Here are some practical suggestions for engaging in the spiritual discipline of Celebration.
1. Sing, dance, and shout.
This is the recommendation of Scripture (Psalm 150). Let it out!
Laughter is the best medicine.
3. Engage in the creative arts.
Whether it’s music, dance, symphony, drama, writing, fantasy, fiction, or real life — participating in the creative arts helps us to celebrate.
4. Appreciate the creativity of others.
I am always inspired to up my game when I watch someone else who has mastered their game.
5. Make family events into times of celebration and thanksgiving.
I knew a guy whose family never celebrated birthdays growing up. It was a very sad thing to hear him talk about his childhood. The ancient cultures understood the importance of celebrating the various rites of passage, like birthdays, graduations, marriages, anniversaries.
6. Celebrate lesser, but equally important events.
Finished a major project? Got a new job? Get a raise? Why not celebrate? Look for any reason to celebrate!
7. Take advantage of the festivals of your culture.
Learn about your heritage and why your people celebrate life. And then join the party!
Celebration is the easiest and surely the most fun of all the Spiritual Disciplines. It also gives us the strength to live in all the other Disciplines.
So, join the party!!
[Click on a Spiritual Discipline to go to that article]
The Inward Disciplines
Prayer — Talking directly to God, expressing your love for Him, sharing your deepest desires, pain, and petitions.
Meditation — Reflecting on the things God is teaching you and listening for the still small voice deep inside.
Fasting — Going without something for a prolonged period of time in order to focus primarily on God.
Study — Reading the Word of God, asking him to speak to you through his Holy Spirit and the writings and teachings of other Christians.
The Outward Disciplines
Simplicity — Purging your life of all that is unnecessary or excessive, in order to depend on God rather than material luxuries.
Solitude — Spending time alone with God away from all distractions in order to achieve higher levels of patience and self-awareness.
Submission — Practicing obedience to God and those he has placed in spiritual authority over you.
Service — Obeying the commands of God to love others as you love yourself, by serving them.
The Corporate Disciplines
Confession — Admitting to God (and trusted friends) specific sins you are aware of, and asking him to forgive you and to help you overcome them.
Worship — Expressing your love for God in community with other Christians.
Guidance — Seeking the wisdom of other Christians who are more spiritually mature than you.
Celebration — Enjoying fellowship with your family, friends, and community by celebrating your love for God and each other.
* these are taken from Celebration of Discipline by Richard J. Foster