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Coming closer to God through celebration

By AL EARLEY

Religion Columnist

I have saved the spiritual discipline, celebration, for last because it grows out of all the other disciplines. The Bible loves great celebrations. The songs of Moses and Miriam sing of God’s victory over the Egyptian army after the Hebrews escape across the Red Sea (Exodus 15). In Judges 5 we read Deborah’s song after defeating Sisera. David dances quite a dance in his underwear to celebrate the arrival of the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem (II Samuel 6). Jesus adds gallons of fine wine to the wedding party at Cana (John 2). The greatest celebration of all is the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the grave assuring out victory over sin, death and evil. You and I win through God’s victory, and Satan loses. The Bible loves great celebrations.

When do we celebrate? Most of us will recall holidays, gatherings with family or friends, or celebrations during our travels. We don’t think about celebration as a spiritual discipline — anything we do regularly that draws us closer to God. When we think of celebration as a spiritual discipline we don’t just have parties, we sing, dance, whistle, laugh, or praise God out of pure joy. When we remember how much God helps us, loves us, grants us grace and gives us meaning and purpose in life, then we remember God’s greatness more often and are more thankful people.

I remember a conversation with three very different teenagers. The first had enjoyed a blessed life. She was encouraged in school, very active in church and though her parents were divorced, she was loved and knew it. She thought all of life was a celebration.

The next teenager had led a difficult life. He had all the necessities of life, and many of life’s luxuries, but he was left on his own often, not encouraged, poor in school, mediocre self-esteem and rarely, if ever, in church. In his mind celebrations happened only at parties, as he commented, “Come on Al, celebrate all the time?”

The third teenager had a life similar to the second, with a little more family support and a lot more church support. She wisely realized that we make many of the choices about how we will view our lives, and whether we will see God’s glory around us and celebrate it, or not.

My wife and I like to host a lot of celebrations with family and friends. When it is time to enjoy the meal it is always done after holding hands, and sharing a prayer of thanksgiving to God. Then everyone in the circle shares the words, “I love you.” This always puts our hearts in the right place to come closer to God during our celebration. Before the celebration, my wife and I often pray for all the people that will be coming for the celebration, that by coming into our home they will experience the love and power of God in our home. We have a strong sense that every celebration in our home includes God as the guest of honor.

In his book “The Spiritual Disciplines,” Dallas Willard writes, “Due to suffering, pain, and sin in the world, a healthy faith in God cannot be built and maintained without heartfelt celebration of his greatness and goodness to us, in the midst of our suffering and terror” (pp. 178). Celebration heartily done makes our deprivations and sorrows seem small, and we find in it great strength to do the will of our God because his goodness becomes so real to us.

Can you think of something fantastic that has happened to you recently, that you can celebrate God’s goodness in your life? Can you think of something very simple that you can celebrate as a gift of God? What would help you celebrate the wonderful gifts God gives you and the love God has for you more often? Do you pray before your celebrations? Do you pray during your celebrations?

This spiritual discipline is the result of living out all the other disciplines in our lives. When we remember that we are alive to love and serve God, and throughout our lives, to glorify God’s name, the lives we live will bring us and God great joy. Practice celebrating God’s love as you celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ and our eternal salvation. Now that is something to celebrate.

To find out more about Al Earley or read previous articles visit lagrangepres.com.