*Originally published in Renovare by Richard Foster
The spiritual discipline of celebration leads us into a perpetual jubilee of the Spirit. We are rejoicing in the goodness and the greatness of God. As Saint Augustine said, “The Christian should be an alleluia from head to foot.“1
Celebration comes to us as the result of all the spiritual disciplines having done their work in our lives. The desired goal of the spiritual disciplines is to produce in us a deep character formation. The fruit of the Spirit is the “holy habits” of a truly formed life. In greater and deeper measure our life is being penetrated throughout by “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”2
This deep-rooted character formation brings balance to our lives. Anger, bitterness, resentment, rancor, hostility, deceit — these things simply do not have the same control over us that they once did. We feel the impact of this in all our relationships: with our spouse, with our children, with our co-workers, with our neighbors, with our friends. Even with our enemies.
When the substance of our life is formed and conformed and transformed into Christlikeness, then celebration becomes possible. No longer do we undermine or sabotage the good work of God. We can simply and joyfully celebrate the goodness of God in us and in those around us. Celebration is made possible as the common ventures of life are redeemed.
Joy is at the heart of celebration. Indeed, I rather imagine it’s the engine that keeps the entire operation going. “The joy of the LORD is your strength,” declared Nehemiah.3 And so it is. Without joy penetrating all the disciplines, they will quickly deteriorate into another set of soul-killing legalisms.
Perhaps the most important benefit of celebration is that it saves us from taking ourselves too seriously. It is an occupational hazard of devout folk to become stuffy bores. Celebration delivers us from such a fate. It adds a note of gaiety, festivity, and hilarity to our lives.
Celebration gives us perspective on ourselves. We are not nearly as important as we often think we are, and celebration has a way of bringing us the needed balance. The high and the mighty and the weak and the lowly all celebrate together. Who can be high or low at the festival of God? Together the rich and the poor, the powerful and the powerless all share in the goodness of God. There is no leveler of caste systems like festivity.
Celebration is not just an attitude but also something that we do. We laugh. We sing. We dance. We play. The psalmist described the joy-filled celebration of the people of God complete with timbrel and dance, with trumpet and lute and harp, with strings and pipe and loud clashing cymbals. In celebration we celebrate! Celebration is one of those things that does not diminish with use. Rather it multiplies. Celebration begets more celebration. Joy begets more joy. Laughter begets more laughter. I have found that times of genuine celebration have the potential of bringing healing and wholeness to the entire community. So … let’s celebrate!