When Jesus entered the world as a human being, great celebration was taking place in heaven, as the angel announced the Savior’s birth to the shepherds:
Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2:10-14)
In the Old Testament we learn about the year of Jubilee, which was a celebration of the gracious provision of God. During that time debts were canceled, slaves were set free, no crops were being planted and property was returned to the original owner.
But in today’s hectic, stressful and violent world, how can we experience the true joy that comes from God? Can we have freedom from anxiety and care, which forms the basis for celebration? Harvey Cox has said that, “modern man has been pressed so hard toward useful work and rational calculation he has all but forgotten the joy of ecstatic celebration.”
The discipline of celebration is essential in our lives. Richard Foster put it this way: “Celebration is central to all the Spiritual Disciplines. Without a joyful spirit of festivity the Disciplines become dull, death-breathing tools in the hands of modern Pharisees.”
Let us now share in our joy, and learn how each of us celebrates the new life we have in Jesus.
Do you enjoy God? Please describe your enjoyment to the rest of the group.
Is it easy for you to laugh at yourself?
“The true expression of Christianity is not a sigh, but a song.”
– Robert E. Harris, Revelation
Do you remember a time in your life when you knew you had to endure a difficult time for a while but there was going to be great joy afterwards? (For example: a woman endures labor pains, but the joy of the newborn baby is beyond words. A newlywed couple might endure some difficulty adjusting to one another, but they look forward to a joyful life together. Learning a new instrument may be painful on the ear in the beginning, but after a while, the noise turns to music.)
The Christian should be an alleluia from head to foot!
– Augustine of Hippo
Please read Philippians 4:4-7. The joy of the Lord is not a mere good feeling, as our lives often include suffering, sorrow, disappointments and pain. Please take some time discussing this passage with one another. What does it mean to be full of joy always? What does it NOT mean?
How does selfishness hinder real celebration?
What role does thankfulness have in regards to celebration?
“Joy is the echo of God’s life in us.” –Dom Joseph Marmion
Please read Luke 11:27-28. Jesus said that it is an even greater blessing to live in obedience than to have been the mother of the Messiah! Think about this profound statement Jesus made. God teaches us that joy comes through obedience to Jesus, and joy results from obedience to Jesus Christ. What do you think are God’s ways of bringing his joy to your life?
Dallas Willard wrote this about celebration: “Holy delight and joy is the great antidote to despair and is a wellspring of genuine gratitude.” Have you experienced that?
The name of Jesus is honey in the mouth, music to the ear, a cry of gladness in the heart.
– St. Bernard
“There is a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance” (Ecclesiastes 3:4). God is encouraging us to seize the season and embrace it for what it is. Dallas Willard wrote, “We dishonor God as much by fearing and avoiding pleasure as we do by dependence upon it or living for it.” (We are talking about godly, wholesome and healthy pleasure.) What do you think about this statement?
Why do you think we feel good after an evening with friends, filled with laughter, fun games, good music, food and drink? What are some genuine ways to promote true celebration? (Maybe your group has a wonderful reason to celebrate! Think about it and see what everyone thinks.)
A Dance of Joy
Taken from The Little Book of Eternal Wisdom, by Heinrich Suso. Suso imagines Jesus saying:
In the Godhead I play the game of bliss,
Such joy the angels find in this,
That unto them a thousand years
But as one little hour appears.
Happy is he who, in joyous security,
Shall take Me by My beautiful hand,
And join in My sweet diversions,
And dance forever the dance of joy,
Amid the ravishing delights,
Of the kingdom of heaven.
- Celebration of Discipline – Richard Foster
- The Spirit of the Disciplines – Dallas Willard
- Enjoying the Presence of God – Jan Johnson