Summary: Sermon #1 in a two sermon series on my favorite disciplines deals with celebration and how to maintain joy in everyday life
(sermon #1 in the My Favorite Disciplines)
The Discipline of CELEBRATION
CHCC: December 7, 2008
This fall some of our Pueblo groups studied a book called The Life You Always Wanted by John Ortberg. It’s a book about Spiritual Disciplines … which doesn’t exactly sound like the BOOK you always wanted. What comes to your mind when you think about Spiritual Disciplines? Prayer? Bible Reading? Getting up at four a.m. for hour-long devotions? Fasting?
Well, I thought I’d spend a sermon or two talking about Some of my favorite Disciplines. If you’ve looked at the Bulletin you know my favorite: the Discipline of CELEBRATION.
Maybe you never thought of CELEBRATION as a Discipline. I never did. But when I saw that the first chapter of that book was called The Discipline of Celebration, I thought, Hey, there’s a discipline I can do! You see, I’m an optimist by nature --- I’m always a glass-half-full kind of thinker and I’m always up for a celebration. But not everyone is that way. Some people are kind of “joy-impaired.” They have to work at it.
And even for us happy-go-lucky types, JOYfulness is a skill. That’s why God actually COMMANDED His people to Celebrate. When God set up rules and laws and traditions for the new Nation of Israel, He put a lot of emphasis on FEAST DAYS. Celebration was an important part of life for God’s people. C.S. Lewis put it this way: “Joy is the serious business of heaven.”
In Leviticus 23 we discover that God commanded His people to celebrate 7 different festivals each year. Four of the festivals were held in the spring (Passover, unleavened bread, Firstfruits, and Feast of weeks), then in the fall were the other 3 (Trumpets, Day of Atonement, and Tabernacles). All of these festivals had a historical significance, a religious significance, and, as we now know, a prophetic significance pointing to the time when Christ would fulfill all of them.
And, all of these Feasts involve some elements of fun and enjoyment, like getting together for lots of good food and music. God wanted these CELEBRATIONS to bond the nation together. And He wanted His people to experience great JOY on these Special Days.
1. SPECIAL DAYS
You may remember that earlier this fall we studied the book of Nehemiah. This book tells about the Jewish exiles who returned to Israel from Babylon after 70 years of captivity. After they built the walls of protection around Jerusalem, the first thing Nehemiah commanded was a special day of Celebration.
Nehemiah 8:10 And Nehemiah continued, “Go and celebrate with a feast of rich foods and sweet drinks, and share gifts of food with people who have nothing prepared. This is a sacred day before our Lord. Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the LORD is your strength!” (NLT)
Doesn’t that sound fun? Rich foods, sweet drinks, and gifts! Kind of makes me think of a celebration we have coming up in 18 days. The Old Testament makes it clear that God values CELEBRATION. In fact, we probably don’t celebrate enough. I heard a comedian complain: How come the Jews get to have 7 celebrations? As far as I can see the Christians only get to have 3: Christmas, Easter, and the Daytona 500! (Larry the Cable Guy.)
The point is that God loves it when we celebrate. The way we celebrate Christmas is probably more like the Israelite feast days than any other celebration.
We tend to think we are only pleasing God in our solemn moments … we think God is pleased when we say the blessing before the meal but then he probably loses interest when we’re laughing and talking and enjoying the food. I have a feeling the opposite may be true. God takes great pleasure in riotous (yet wholesome) happiness.
JOY is at the heart of God’s plan for human beings. I suspect most of us seriously underestimate God’s interest in pleasure, laughter, fun, and all kinds of celebration. Think about a child on Christmas morning. Now there is GREAT JOY … excitement, anticipation, jumping up and down kind of JOY. GOD created that capacity for JOY. G.K. Chesterton said this: “It may be that He (God) has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.”
In the book we studied in our Pueblo group, John Ortberg suggested the idea of setting aside one day every week to celebrate. Here’s what he said: “One day a week devote a specific day to acts of celebration: eat foods you love, listen to music that moves your soul, play a sport that stretches and challenges you, read books that refresh your spirit, wear clothes that make you happy, surround yourself with beauty and give thanks to God for his wonderful goodness. Take time to experience and savor joy, then direct your heart to God so that you come to know He is the giver of every good and perfect gift.”