Thursday, November 12, 2009

Celebration

Who doesn't enjoy a good party, right? But what exactly makes a party good? Here's my definition: engaging conversation with interesting people of depth and character and lots of laughter over hopeful and candid stories. A gourmet menu and intimate setting may provide great context, but the essence of a party is people--transparent, fun, interesting people. People who like to celebrate.

This last chapter of Richard Foster's seminal work, Celebration of Discipline, is my favorite, because it's a call to party. He says, "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 by Richard J. Foster (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1998) p.191. Have you ever been to a dinner party or gathering, large or small, that invigorated you just the way Foster says? Did you leave feeling more energetic, stronger? I have. In fact, last month I had a dinner out with my beloved Miggno (Multi-generational Girls Night Out) and left feeling like I could lasso the moon.

But a true spirit of carefree celebration isn't something that just happens. There are some prerequisites. First of all, worrying is not allowed. Worry is ruinous to a merry parade. And your everyday Joe is a worrier. The lack of security in today's society is omnipresent from financial woes, to terrorism, to senseless and horrific crime, to broken families, natural disasters, widespread disease and a sense of meaninglessness. People who spend an inordinate amount of time watching every worrisome detail unfold in front of them cannot help but be affected. They don't celebrate. They worry.

But a biblical worldview requires a very different perspective. In Philippians 4 we are commanded to rejoice always and to not be anxious. We are told that if we present our requests to God we will have the peace that transcends understanding. That peace doesn't mean everything is perfect all the time, but it does enable a spirit of celebration. Without this spirit, parties mask anxiety and meaninglessness, and they are draining and depressing.

But a God-given carefree outlook is not the only requirement for a successful celebration, there is also the need for obedience. Foster makes this point as succinctly as it can possibly be made: "Joy is found in obedience." Celebration of Discipline by Richard J. Foster (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1998) p.193. It's the paradox of Psalm 119. We may think that God's law is there to restrict us, to tell us what we cannot do, to strap us in so we can't have too good of a time, but that's a childish view. The truth is that there is joy in obedience. Restrictions are there for our own good. Remember God created us. He kind of knows what will make us happy and what won't.

So how are you doing? When was the last time you observed some event or accomplishment with a true spirit of celebration? May we not discount the importance of celebrating, and may we live out the words of Augustine: "The Christian should be an alleluia from head to foot!"

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