I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete. ~ John 15:11
The Christian should be an alleluia from head to foot! ~ Augustine of Hippo
Over a month ago I met with a couple to discuss presiding at their wedding. We talked about how they met, the challenges of relationships, and their desire to get married. “We love each other and want to commit our lives to one another.”
I felt very hopeful for their future together. Before we left our meeting, I asked them, “How do you feel about getting married in the middle of a pandemic?”
The bride to be said, “We’ve talked about this quite a bit. We are only going to have a few friends and family present, about ten. We will ask everyone to wear a mask and stay socially distanced. There are risks involved but we also think it is important to celebrate.”
Do we take time to celebrate life, love, and beauty? Do we celebrate creativity? Birthdays? Graduations? Anniversaries? Do we celebrate lesser but equally important events like getting a job, receiving a raise, completing that home project, finishing physical therapy, or the first flower blooming in the spring?
“Celebration is at the heart of the way of Christ,” writes Richard Foster. When Christ came into the world the angel sang, “I bring you good news of great joy which shall come to all people” (Luke 2:10). When Jesus left the world, he gifted his peace and joy to us, “These things I have spoken to you that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete” (John 15:11).
A good, heartfelt celebration rescues us from cynicism, despondency, and negativity. “Celebration brings joy into our lives, and joy makes us strong, and give us hope. We cannot continue long in anything without it,” says Foster.
We can celebrate. Two people, in the middle of a pandemic make a commitment to love one another. A couple gives birth to a new child and promises to cover her in peace and tenderness. The birds come back in the spring. The snow melts and the flowers bloom. A child reads his first book and jumps to the moon and back. A person finishes a challenging hike. Two old friends forgive each other again. The bells ring across our valley.
Do we take time as individuals and as a community to celebrate the love, the hope, the new birth, the small moments of grace that are all around us each day? Foster says without joyous celebrations to infuse our spirits we will slip into despair. “Joy produces energy. Joy makes us strong.”
I have not done research on paintings or pictures of Jesus, but I am fairly sure that serious or somber portrayals of him far outweigh the joyful “pics.” Why? Do we have an aversion to joy? Do we think we are cheating life by celebrating life?
Jesus celebrated and enjoyed life. He turned water into wine at the wedding at Cana. He ate dinner and celebrated life with all types of characters, misfits, and ragamuffins. He got a “kick” out of old people and young children. A woman spreads ointment or rich perfume on Jesus’ head and feet, and he enjoys it. Jesus rejoiced in life so much that he was accused of being a “glutton and a drunkard” (see Luke 7:34). Foster says, “Many of us lead such sour lives that we cannot possibly be accused of such things.”
I do not recommend drinking or eating until we are lost in space, but we do need, as Foster writes, more “healing and refreshing experiences that cultivate a wide appreciation of life.”
Authentic celebrations and joy give us energy and strength.
The wedding at Willowtail Springs was absolutely beautiful and intimate. The snowcapped La Platas were in the background. Ducks swam in the pond outside the picture window. Family and friends were present in peace. The bride and the groom radiated a contagious love and joy which reminded all of us that life is good despite the hardships and pain. Love does endure.
Together we celebrated love, new life, and hope.
May we take time to celebrate things big and small.
May we have joy knowing that God is with us and loves us.
May we soak in the ointment of grace and rejoice.
Blessings, peace, and joy to all of you,