Growing up in a small Canadian town in a Salvation Army subculture, I didn’t realize that whenever someone in our circle threw a party, potluck or had a “time,” we were actually practising one of the ancient spiritual disciplines. Everyone contributed something to the menu or program and, together, the tables or concert schedules would be filled as joy and laughter filled the air. It was celebration time!
In The Spirit of the Disciplines, Dallas Willard writes of celebration as “one of the most important disciplines of engagement, yet most overlooked and misunderstood. It is the completion of worship, for it dwells on the greatness of God as shown in his goodness to us.”
When we came together in the church hall, community centre or even in Grandma’s kitchen, we were blessed and we knew it. We were rich and we knew it. We were part of God’s great family and we knew it. We had cause to celebrate and we did it.
In his book by the same title, Tony Campolo says that the kingdom of God is a party.
But far too many people have never heard about this and have no idea that they are missing out. For them, it often seems like our world is only filled with bad news, pain, destruction, evil and its consequences. Crisis follows crisis and all seems hopeless. What’s the use? Why bother? If only there were some “good news.” Even more shocking is that some so-called Christians have been known to adopt this attitude as well. Who can smile? Who can laugh? Who would dare celebrate?
Willard says that “a healthy faith before God cannot be built and maintained, without heartfelt celebration of his greatness and goodness to us in the midst of our suffering and terror.” In Celebration of Discipline, Richard Foster says that “of all people, we should be the most free, alive and interesting. Celebration adds a note of gaiety, festivity and hilarity to our lives.”
In Christ, we can celebrate and we must. As Foster writes, “Celebration is at the heart of the way of Christ…. Celebration gives strength to life…. Celebration is the path to joy…. Celebration helps us to relax…. Celebration can be an effective antidote for the periodic sense of sadness that can constrict and oppress the heart…. Celebration gives us perspective…. In celebration, the high and mighty regain their balance and the weak and lowly receive new stature…. Thus freed of an inflated view of our own importance we are also freed of a judgmental spirit…. Finally, an interesting characteristic of celebration is that it tends toward more celebration. Joy begets joy. Laughter begets laughter. It is one of those few things in life that, by giving, we multiply.”
The world needs to know that God in Christ has blessed us beyond measure in spite of our circumstances and he invites all to come to his salvation party.
What better time to have such a party than at Thanksgiving? Some may say, “But Thanksgiving is not a biblical or religious holiday.” I would disagree, but even if it isn’t, can’t we make it one? Can’t we use this occasion to let the world know just how much God has blessed us as a people in his glorious kingdom? Can’t we fill the local food banks or community centres with food and invite local artists and the whole town to a big party at the fire hall or recreation centre? Can’t we go into the highways and byways and compel them to come in? (Wait a minute. Why does this sound familiar?)
Foster says, “We are not limited to established festivals; we can develop our own.” Did you hear that? Whose birthday, anniversary, graduation, promotion, new job, new home, new baby or achievement have we missed? Who in our immediate circle or person “outside the group” could use a little celebrating in their lives?
It’s time to do some of that “multiplying.” It’s time to “Par-Tay.” In the words of Kool and the Gang, it’s time to “celebrate good times!”
Major Randy C. Hicks is the corps officer at North York Temple in the Ontario Central-East Division.
(Photo: © Ingimage.com)