We were born to celebrate. God never intended for fun and laughter to be crowded out of our lives. God’s kingdom, according to Jesus, is like a wedding reception where he wants his friends to celebrate with him as though he were the bridegroom. God’s church is the ultimate party place—a place of rejoicing, celebration, and laughter. It is a foretaste of what is to come in heaven.
We have a God that celebrates. Celebration is at the heart of God himself. We will never understand the significance of celebration in human life until we understand its importance to God. I suspect that most of us seriously underestimate God’s capacity for celebration.
And God’s intent was that his creation—you and me—would mirror his celebration. We should be his biggest fans. We are the recipients of grace, the receivers of love, the beneficiary of hope. We’re convinced that Jesus is the Messiah. We’re expectant of his return. We’re changed men and women.
What happens when we celebrate?
God is encountered.
This is the element of worship. Worship is not a weekly pep talk to encourage the team to win the game. Worship doesn’t have to be the Christian alternative to a Saturday night rock concert, and it isn’t defined as a 45-minute lecture on biblical truths. Worship occurs when people who have fallen in love with the God of the universe meet him. When we encounter God, we can’t help but celebrate, for we’ll see God as he is and we’ll understand who we are. Then our worship becomes celebration.
Joy is expressed.
As products of God’s creation, creatures made in his image, we are to reflect God’s fierce joy in life. That is why the Bible speaks not just about our need for joy in general but a particular kind of joy that characterizes God. Celebration is felt when we express the “joy, joy, joy, joy down in our hearts.” Lewis Smedes put it this way: “To miss out on joy is to miss out on the reason for your existence. C. S. Lewis said, “Joy is the serious business of heaven.” The apostle Paul wrote, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice” (Phil. 4:4 NIV). The Bible puts joy in the non-optional category. Joy is a command. Biblical scholar William Barclay said, “A gloomy Christian is a contradiction in terms.” Joy is the outward expression of the inward knowledge that God has everything under control. Joy is the flag that flies above the castle of our hearts, announcing that the King is in residence. Joy is the knowledge that the game is not over. The final outcome is that because of Christ, we win. This infectious joy convinces a watching world that Christianity is real and that Christ can transform a life—no matter what the circumstances.
Lives are intertwined.
A McDonald’s commercial shows a man sitting alone in his kitchen pretending someone over a loud speaker is asking for any millionaires. The man raises his hand and gets all giddy and excited because he’s won a million dollars. It’s a cute commercial, but it misses a very important point. Celebration, whether it’s winning a lottery, receiving a big promotion, or becoming a Christian, is best done in community. There’s a relational aspect to celebration. It’s most meaningful when lives are intertwined and connected. Church can be the ultimate place of celebration with others. Through our corporate services and small groups, we provide a place where celebration can be shared among friends with a common cause..
The Special Olympics features mentally and physically disabled athletes from around the world. One of the most memorable events that happened during the Special Olympics was a foot race among a group of people with Down syndrome. The runners were close together as they came around the track toward the finish line. One of them stumbled and fell. When that happened, the rest of the runners stopped. They went back as a group, helped the runner who had fallen to stand up, and then all ran across the finish line together. Once across, they hugged and congratulated each other for finishing the race.
I can think of no better picture of authentic community than that. A place where people who are disabled by sin help each other stand up, link arms, and celebrate the finished race together.
That’s who we are as a church. We are a community of believers who have come together to worship the living God. We are a celebrating community. If we don’t celebrate, we have missed the heart of Christianity. And when we do celebrate those outside walls cannot help but want to be inside the walls.