15 December 2017

C’mon… Let’s celebrate!

My mum is 82 years old, and today she’s going to a party!

raWe had such fun kitting her out – especially the fluffy tiara with the red and blue jewels (!), and the Union Jack bracelet! She’s game-for-a-laugh and was really looking forward to the seniors’ indoor-street-party at the mission hall… all to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. Old enough to remember the Coronation and all the razzmatazz that went with it, Mum has been filling me in with all the real street-party details of yesteryear.

“We may not have had much money in those days,” she commented, “but we knew how to let our hair down and celebrate! Guess we appreciated things more back then, and knew how to be thankful.”

An interesting thought!

And to the surprise of some, the Bible is full of stories of celebration: revelry was never intended to be the domain of the ungodly! We are told to ‘rejoice’ – ‘be glad’, ‘take delight’ – more than two hundred and thirty-eight times in the Bible. Paul tries to push the point home even further when he says in Philippians 4:4 “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, Rejoice!” He seems to reckon that if he says it twice we might realise that we have something to be glad about!

You see, the Children of Israel were experts at holding festivals. In fact these special celebrations were initiated in response to God’s salvation or intervention at pivotal times in the nation’s history. There was the festival of Pesach – Passover, commemorating the deliverance from Egypt; Yom Kippur, celebrating the Day of Atonement; Sukkot – Feast of Tabernacles, commemorating the Wilderness wanderings; Purim, marking the deliverance of the Jews through Esther… and that’s only the start. While these were, and still are, religious events, they contained within them times of real celebration: family and community events full of fun and feasting! God had done great things for them… and they were going to make sure they didn’t forget it!

As Miriam stood watching the mountainous waters of the Red Sea collapse down on the approaching Egyptian army, she knew she had much for which to thank the Lord Jehovah. With over a million former slaves spread out in front of her – a people who had suffered long and hard under these cruel taskmasters – Miriam was overwhelmed by the complete deliverance they had just experienced. Not only was the imminent danger of death and a return to slavery defeated, but Egypt had now no means to follow them as they made the journey back to the land God had promised to their forefathers. They were truly free!

And what did Miriam do?

She led the women in a song of praise and a dance of celebration!

Sing to the Lord,” she declared, while the beat of her little drum set the rhythm for the ladies’ dance, “for He has triumphed gloriously!” The song of victory rose to the heavens, while the earth shook under the feet of thousands of praising women. “The horse and its rider He has thrown into the sea!” (Exodus 15:21) Fear gave way to praise, and celebration encouraged their onward journey.

Celebration was also the theme when David “brought up the ark of God from the house of Obed-Edom to the City of David with gladness.” And how did his celebrations go? “David danced before the Lord with all his might… and all the house of Israel… with shouting and with the sound of the trumpet.” (2 Samuel 6:12-15)

For David, and the nation, the ark of God symbolised the very presence of God among the people. Is it any wonder that he rejoiced over its return from the pagan Philistines?

Of course in every generation there are the party-poopers… those who regard personal reputation over the praise of God. Unfortunately for David it was his wife, Michal, who was disgusted by what she regarded as his ‘antics’ on that glorious evening. But David was not ashamed to have chosen exuberant worship over staid decorum. He had much too much to be thankful for!

Then, as we pass down the centuries to the very time of Christ, we hear from the lips of the Saviour how the father responded to the return of his prodigal son: “… bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry; for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found. And they began to be merry.” (Luke 15:23f) But, when the party-pooper of this story – aka the older brother – arrived angry at such a celebration, the father set him straight: “It was right that we should make merry and be glad, for your brother was… lost and is found.”

Miriam celebrated because of deliverance from bondage. Galatians 5:1 (NLT) tells us “So Christ has really set us free!”… Do you feel a song coming on?

David celebrated because the symbol of the presence of the Lord was returning to its rightful place. John 1:14 tells us: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” He dwells with us – have you seen His glory? Does your heart not feel like bursting?

Jesus told us that “there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents”! (Luke 15:10) Are you smiling yet? Does the forgiving love of God not make you want to shout?

Rejoicing… celebrating… it is the right thing to do! You know it!

So, c’mon… let’s celebrate!

Catherine Campbell