The last few years have been rough on all of us. A pandemic brought our lives to a standstill, war continues to inflict violence on the innocent, and the fight against injustice rages on. Open any social media app, and you will likely be bombarded with a hearty dose of negativity. Where is the good in our world? Whatever happened to joy?
One source of joy for Christians is to practice the biblical discipline of celebration. The spiritual discipline of celebration is sharing joy with others in the present moment for God’s blessings.
What is the Spiritual Discipline of Celebration?
In his book The Spirit of the Disciplines, Dallas Willard writes the spiritual discipline of celebration “is the completion of worship, for it dwells on the greatness of God as shown in his goodness to us. We engage in celebration when we enjoy ourselves, our life, our world, in conjunction with our faith and confidence in God’s greatness, beauty, and goodness…. We come together with others who know God to eat and drink, to sing and dance, and to relate stories of God’s action for our lives and our people” (page 179).
This discipline is not an act of self-centered pride but embracing humility to stop and rejoice with one another in God’s gifts. When we celebrate, we are not denying our own pain and heartache or ignoring the horrifying evil in the world around us. But in this moment, we stop and celebrate God’s goodness in … a butterfly flitting across our path, the giggles of a toddler, or the marriage of a dear friend. Even though we are pilgrims through a broken world, we can still celebrate God’s beautiful gifts in our here and now.
Scripture Teaches the Spiritual Discipline of Celebration
After God delivered the Israelites from slavery in Egypt by parting the Red Sea, Miriam, the prophet, led a celebration of singing and dancing to the accompaniment of tambourines. They worshiped God through a new song to commemorate His glorious deliverance from pharaoh’s army (see Exodus 15).
After Solomon built the Temple of Jerusalem, the Israelites held a dedication. Solomon blessed God for His faithful love in fulfilling His promises and prayed for God’s people to be faithful to Him in return. The celebration went on for seven days with music and feasting. Afterward, the people returned to their homes with joyful hearts because of God’s goodness to them (see 1 Kings 8 and 2 Chronicles 5-7).
When God preserved the Jews from annihilation through Queen Esther, God’s people instituted the annual holiday and festival of Purim to commemorate God’s great deliverance from their enemies. They celebrated the time God turned their sorrow into gladness and their mourning into joy by feasting, giving gifts of food to each other, and giving presents to the poor (see Esther 8-9).
The armies of heaven celebrated and praised God the night of Christ’s birth. The Messiah, the Lord, had been born, which was good news that would bring great joy and peace to all people! The angels shared this great news with the shepherds and invited them to go and see for themselves. After visiting the baby, the shepherds came away rejoicing and praising God (see Luke 2).
Suggestions to Practice the Spiritual Discipline of Celebration
Our Heavenly Father gives us endless gifts to celebrate. In addition to birthdays, graduations, anniversaries, promotions, and new jobs, we can also celebrate:
- The completion of a major project at work or home
- Reaching a financial or educational goal
- A significant spiritual event
- A move to a new house or town
- A new season in life (focusing on the positive!)
- A milestone achieved
- The gift of being with friends
- That we have food to eat today and a protected place to sleep
- Being surprised by a kindness
- Any event that brings joy to the heart of a loved one or yourself
Christians can practice the spiritual discipline of celebration in endless ways. Ideas for practicing this discipline include:
- Celebrate with music or through the arts.
- Celebrate with food and drink. Share a special dinner with loved ones or host a tea party on the patio.
- Celebrate with worship. Many faith traditions have celebratory seasons woven into their church calendar: Lent (Easter), Pentecost, Advent, and Epiphany.
- Each individual personality enjoys celebrating in different ways. What activities bring you or those close to you deep joy? Pack a picnic and eat at a favorite spot. Enjoy a silent night at home curled up with a book you’ve been longing to read. Spend time in nature. Order your splurge drink at your favorite coffeehouse. Make popcorn and watch a special movie.
- Embrace your cultural background. Celebrations take varying forms among different ethnic and national cultures. Some love to dance, others create lively music, and each ethnicity has its own special food.
- Remember that celebration is not an excuse to indulge in excess of food, drink, or other practices. Self-control is a fruit of the spirit.
- Simplicity is best. The purpose of this spiritual practice is to express thanks, not to impress.
- Celebrate by creating joy and laughter with those you love.
- If you have no family nearby and friends are unavailable, celebrate by yourself in some small way. Although celebration is usually practiced with others, sometimes we can celebrate the special moments in our life by ourselves, with a grateful heart to our Heavenly Father
Celebration Inspires Joy in God’s Goodness
Every good and perfect gift comes from our Father in heaven (James 1:17). Joy and celebration are gifts from God. When we celebrate the goodness and beauty of God’s gifts and give Him glory, we are reminded that this earth, with all its heartache, is not our final home. Celebration inspires joy, and joy energizes our souls. Our minds rest for a while from the pressures of everyday life, and we place our hope in God’s mercy and love.
What do you have to celebrate today, no matter how big or small? How will you celebrate the goodness of God?