Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises. Psalm 98:4
This devotional writing is the first in a series on the subject of celebration. I decided to write a few devotions about celebration to help us find the good in the ordinary, the painful, and the unanswered mysteries. Often, the good doesn’t show up unless we know how to seek it out. It is my prayer that these devotions will help us do just that. Celebration is closely related to gratitude and worship, so these themes will also emerge and enrich our growing understanding.
When the word “celebration” is mentioned, we may think of a special occasion, or a reason to throw a party, or an opportunity to have a good time. Lots of times a celebration requires us to dress up and eat food we don’t usually eat. Maybe we even spend time with people we don’t know well or see often.
The grand celebrations, like a graduation or a wedding or a milestone birthday, happen only a few times during someone’s life. The party is larger and the desire to make it special is greater because we want to honor the new season of life the occasion represents.
Whatever the word “celebration” may mean to each person, everyone comes away from the event with a longing to carry it with us; to find a way to take the merrymaking into the upcoming hours, days, and years so we remember. No one wants to forget the feeling of being included in a party and the way people looked on that special day. We form traditions and find ways to preserve photos of family and friends before age and sickness changes them or distance and the passing of time steals them away.
And yet, nothing remains the same. So the question becomes how do we live in the present while staying attentive to the vibrations joy sends through our experiences?
This is the essence of the spiritual discipline of celebration.
Calling celebration a discipline means that it becomes an intentional habit. Parties don’t happen by accident. Every celebration takes months of careful planning to pull it off. So it is with our hearts. Living with joy and celebrating the good must develop into an intentional habit. In the spiritual life, this starts with finding ways to focus on our relationship with God. Celebration as a practice invites us to slow down and enjoy the here and now. It asks us to step back and view reality. To give thanks. To offer unhurried love.
Do we celebrate? Have a reason to? Know how? Want to? If I were to answer honestly, I would say to all those questions, “sometimes.” This is mostly because the hard dark times hide from my view the real, near presence of the Lord. When my heart chooses to celebrate, my fear lessens. Celebration shines light on God’s care, his love, and his promises. That’s something–like the loved ones in a photo–I never want to forget.