Last Saturday was a big day. My wife’s family celebrated her father’s 85th birthday.
It was a family affair but in this case family made for a big celebration. All five children were there along with some of the grandchildren and great grandchildren. All told there were more than forty people in attendance.
As well as the achievement of reaching his 85th birthday, Dad has been an amazing father, grandfather and great grandfather which heightened the excitement level for all of us. It was just nice to do something nice for someone who is nice.
Everybody loves a celebration and we had fun.
Celebration in the church
In our churches we use the word “celebrate” but I’m not sure that we actually do celebrate nearly as often as we should. Celebration conjures up words in my mind like “fun,” “excitement,” “party” and “joy.” Those aren’t words that I usually associate with church.
I have to think that those could very well have been words that one might have associated with the upper room right after the women brought the news that Jesus was alive. I can’t help but think that there must have been a party in Jerusalem that evening.
I’m not advocating emotionalism for the sake of emotionalism. I’m not suggesting that churches need to create excitement just for the sake of excitement but I am saying that there are good things that happen all the time in the churches that we attend and we need to celebrate them every opportunity that we can find to celebrate.
Reasons to celebrate
1. The gospel is good news
- Jesus died for our sins
- Jesus provides us with forgiveness
- Jesus promised us eternal life
- Jesus rose again and is alive today
- Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to indwell us
- Jesus brought us into the family of God
- Jesus ensures us that we have a bright future
- Jesus is coming again and we will share in his reign
2. Regular celebration raises a church’s self-esteem
- Celebration focuses people’s attention on the positive
- Celebration reminds us that God is at work
- Celebration helps us realize that God uses people
- Celebration forces us to focus on present blessings
- Celebration strengthens relationships in the church family
- Celebration reminds people of their value in God’s sight
- Celebration adds excitement to everything the church does
- Celebration strengthens our connection to the church
3. God’s blessings are new every morning and should be celebrated.
- God has blessed your church
- God has blessed the individuals in your church
- God has blessed the children in your church
- God has blessed the community around your church
- God has blessed the people whose life’s have been touched by people in your church
- God has blessed the people who have left your church and moved elsewhere
- God has blessed family members who grew up in your church and moved on to other avenues of service
- God blesses and blessings need to be shared
Things to celebrate
- New jobs
- Opportunities people have to share their faith
- New service opportunities
- Spiritual growth
- New members
- Mission opportunities
- Special events unique to your church
These are just a few possibilities. The list can be as long as a church wants to make it. The key is for people to be looking for reasons to celebrate.
Why don’t churches celebrate more
1. The belief that, if the church is going to show proper reverence to God, people need to be solemn and serious.
I believe that while we need to always remember that God is God and for that reason is worthy of our deepest respect, he has created people with the need to express emotions of joy and celebration.
I am going to make what for some of you might seem like a radical statement.
I believe that Jesus had a sense of humour. I believe that he laughed and joked with his disciples. I believe that he enjoyed a good celebration as much as anyone.
We need to show proper reverence in our celebrations but don’t make that a reason for not celebrating.
2. The fear, that if we celebrate certain things, we will miss something else and someone will feel left out.
That is a legitimate fear. We might miss something that is worthy of our celebration. We run the risk that there could be someone who is hurt because we missed the special event in his/her life.
But the answer to the fear of missing someone is to work hard at not missing anyone.
It must not be a total absence of celebration.
Don’t let the fear that you could miss someone be the cause for missing everyone.
3. The fact that celebration takes effort and we are already busy
I’m not suggesting that a church establish a celebration program with its own celebration committee that will coordinate all the celebrations in your church. I am already getting tired just at the thought of organizing such a program.
The answer is to develop a celebration mindset in your church so that people are looking for things to celebrate. What you need are people who are always listening for new things that are happening in people’s live.
Celebration shouldn’t be a program. It really should be a part of pastoral care.
The biblical mandate
In his first letter to the Corinthians Paul told the people in that church that they were to celebrate with those who celebrated and mourn with those who mourn (1 Cor. 12:26).
Many churches do a pretty good job with the second part of this mandate. Christians tend to come along side people who have suffered loss so that they can comfort them.
I’m not sure that we do a great job of the celebration side of the mandate. Paul tells us that we need to do both.
I am a Toronto Blue Jay fan. In 1985 they won the first division title in their history. They had been knocking at the door for a few years but in 1985 they finally broke through. They clinched the division title on the second last day of the season. It was a Saturday afternoon and the last batter hit a fly ball to George Bell, the left fielder. Bell caught the ball and fell to his knees holding on to the ball in his glove like it was the most valuable thing in the world.
I was watching the game at home. When Bell made the final out I jumped to my feet, pumped my fist in the air and looked for someone with whom I could share my joy. Then I remembered. My wife and children were out. I was so excited and wanted someone who would get excited with me but there was no one there.
For excitement to be complete, it needs to be shared with others.
Paul is saying that in the church there should always be someone with whom we can share our joy when good things happen.
So, let me encourage you with these final words.
In your church
Celebrate everything that you can find to celebrate.
Celebrate as often as you can work it into the schedule.
Celebrate as if it was going to be the last chance you would ever get to do so.
Celebrate Celebrate Celebrate.