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“And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was above all the people, and as he opened it all the people stood. And Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God, and all the people answered, “Amen, Amen,” lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped the LORD with their faces to the ground…the Levites, helped the people to understand the Law, while the people remained in their places. They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading….Then [Nehemiah] said to them, “Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:5-10). 

I know I’m dating myself but the 1980 Kool and the Gang Song Celebrate comes to mind when I think of a celebration. Its rhythmic chant tends to stick in your head. Unfortunately, I never really could connect with the song because I can’t dance (Trust me, I’m indescribably awful!). And the song tells me to dance. But I can identify with a New Year’s Eve party or the rejoicing that accompanies your team winning the Super Bowl (Yeah Packers!), NCAA Tournament (Go Vols! I still believe you can do it!), or World Series (poor Cub fans). Entire communities go nuts when that kind of thing happens. For many these are events deserving of a huge party. And that’s the point: we only celebrate those things we consider of great significance and worthy of our exuberant praise. And such should be the case with our faith as well; I think even more so! 

The Old Testament, like this example in Nehemiah 8 of Israel pausing to honor the rebuilding of the Jerusalem wall destroyed by the Babylonians, is filled with feasts and festivals. They include Sabbath, Yom Kippur, Passover, Pentecost, Sabbath Year Feasts, Rosh Kodesh, Feast of Purim, and Jubilee (Ironically, there is no indication this celebration was ever practiced by the Jewish people. For a foreshadowing of my next post, see: http://captivatedbychrist.org/2010/12/28/jubilee-2011/). I would urge you to find a Bible Encyclopedia and do some research on these events. I think you will find the principles in these celebrations quite insightful and practical. God instituted these and others as a means to praise Him, unify, restore and cleanse His people, and build their faith. There are striking themes in these celebrations; focus on God’s goodness, eating and drinking, rejoicing in community, rest from work, praise, memorializing God’s sovereign guidance, the reading of His Word, and blessing. These celebrations were designated for certain times to commemorate specific events. 

Here are some things that I gather from God’s intention of His people celebrating: 

  • We often fail to stop from our labors and celebrate God.
  • We need to occasionally pause and rest in God’s goodness.
  • Celebration is facilitated by community.
  • Setting apart a specific time to rejoice in the Lord is a valuable spiritual discipline.
  • We need to practice celebrating Him as an overflow of the joy He brings to us and for His mercies.
  • Today, for His children, Jesus is the sum and source of our ability to joyfully celebrate: “When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” (1 Corinthians 5:4, 7-8). 

This is why we have “Celebration Wednesday” at our house. It was strategically chosen to fall in the middle of our hectic work week, when we are often prone to lose sight of God’s overwhelming goodness towards us. During dinner Rebekah and I shut down any possible distractions (TVs, mobile phones, computers, etc. – OK, our cats are sometimes hard to herd) and, while enjoying God’s provision of food, we start with a Scripture that speaks to God’s goodness towards His children. Then we begin to recite lists we’ve made during the week or spontaneous thoughts on the blessings God has showered on us, both “big” and “small” ones. It is a very intentional time of rejoicing in God and His goodness. We verbalize His blessings and then have a time of prayer for the specific things we have recalled. Then she creates a journal entry to memorialize what we discussed and celebrated. 

I encourage you to try it. This practice is not intended to be some obligatory duty, some religious exercise devoid of deep-seated and sincere meaning. It is designed to reflect genuine joy and marvel over God’s guidance and provision. I know it encourages and edifies us. It helps us to see the bigger picture of life and focus on an infinitely generous, caring, and loving God. And that, my friends, is truly worth celebrating. Because, after all, He is worth celebrating!

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