Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Celebration as a Spiritual Discipline

It’s that time of year again for annual holiday celebrations. But this year, many companies are forgoing or cutting back on the annual party in the interest of saving money during a recession. For some, it seems wrong to celebrate when so much is bad in the economy and many people are hurting financially. I have to admit that I wrestled with whether it was a good idea to have a party this year. But we decided to celebrate because, as a faith venture, it’s important to gather as a group, eat good food, have fun and remember what God has done for us.

Indeed, in the Bible books of Deuteronomy and Leviticus, you see several points where God asks his people to set aside time to gather as a group and celebrate God’s blessing with a feast. In particular, Moses urges the Israelites in Deuteronomy 14: 26-27 to set aside a portion of money and time to “buy whatever you like: cattle, sheep, wine or other fermented drink, or anything you wish. Then you and your household shall eat there in the presence of the Lord your God and rejoice.” Dallas Willard, in his book, The Spirit of the Disciplines, calls this activity the spiritual discipline of celebration. It is a practice that helps develop our spiritual muscles much like the other more familiar practices like solitude, fasting, service or prayer. Willard defines corporate celebration as coming together with others “who know God to eat and drink, to sing and dance, and to relate stories of God’s action for our lives and our people.” (Willard, “The Spirit of the Disciplines”, p 179) He argues that it is a practice that becomes even more important in times of trouble:
…this world is radically unsuited to the heart of the human person, and the
suffering and terror of life will not be removed no matter how “spiritual”
we become. It is because of this that a healthy faith before God cannot be
built and maintained, without heartfelt celebration of his greatness and
goodness to us in the midst of our suffering and terror. “There is a time to
weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance”
(Ecclesiastes 3:4) It is the act and the discipline of faith to seize the
season and embrace it for what it is, including the season of
enjoyment. (Willard, p 180.)
This past weekend, Belay Enterprises had our Christmas Party for all of our staff at Bud’s Warehouse, Baby Bud’s and Freedom Cleaning Services. Over the years, this has become the main celebration event for our organization where we gather to remember what God is doing in our midst. Even though the holiday season is colored by the economic anxiety spreading throughout our country, it is important for us to remember together what God has done for our organization. He has blessed us in many ways this year. I hope you will remember to set aside your troubles and gather with your faith community to celebrate the birth of Jesus this Christmas season.

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