Editor's note:

As we enter the last week before Christ­mas this year, we thought it would be a fun time to pull out some thoughts on the spir­i­tu­al dis­ci­pline of cel­e­bra­tion from Richard Fos­ter’s Cel­e­bra­tion of Discipline. 

Car­olyn Arends will join us tomor­row and Wednes­day with some hope­ful thoughts for those feel­ing rather stuck in the South Pole this sea­son, but today we’re going North Pole all the way! So, we begin today with a nod to all things un-Scrooge with a cheery quote from Ebenez­er’s own nephew Fred. Then, right on into some cel­e­bra­to­ry ideas for the sea­son from our own Richard J. Foster.

(Stayed tuned in 2018 for news about how Richard, Nathan, and Ren­o­varé are cel­e­brat­ing 40 years of Cel­e­bra­tion of Dis­ci­pline!)

We wish you a mer­ry Christ­mas! (We know it’s still Advent—and yet we still wish it!)

—Renovaré Team

Excerpt from Celebration of Discipline

I am sure I have always thought of Christ­mas time, when it has come around — apart from the ven­er­a­tion due to its sacred name and ori­gin, if any­thing belong­ing to it can be apart from that — as a good time; a kind, for­giv­ing, char­i­ta­ble, pleas­ant time; the only time I know of, in the long cal­en­dar of the year, when men and women seem by one con­sent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of peo­ple below them as if they real­ly were fel­low-pas­sen­gers to the grave, and not anoth­er race of crea­tures bound on oth­er jour­neys. And there­fore, uncle, though it has nev­er put a scrap of gold or sil­ver in my pock­et, I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, God bless it! —Nephew Fred, A Christ­mas Carol

The Prac­tice of Celebration

One way to prac­tice cel­e­bra­tion is through singing, danc­ing, shout­ing. Because of the good­ness of God, the heart breaks forth into psalms and hymns and spir­i­tu­al songs. Wor­ship, praise, ado­ra­tion flow from the inner cham­bers. In Psalm 150 we see the cel­e­bra­tion of the peo­ple of God with trum­pet and lute and harp, with tim­brel and dance, with strings and pipe and loud clash­ing cymbals.

What do lit­tle chil­dren do when they cel­e­brate? They make noise, lots of noise. There is not a thing wrong with noise at the appro­pri­ate time, just as there is noth­ing wrong with silence when it is appro­pri­ate. Chil­dren dance when they cel­e­brate. When the chil­dren of Israel had been snatched from the clutch­es of Pharaoh by the mighty pow­er of God, Miri­am the prophet­ess led the peo­ple in a great cel­e­bra­tion of dance (Exo­dus 15:20). David went leap­ing and danc­ing before the Lord with all his might (2 Samuel 6:14, 16). The folk dance has always been a car­ri­er of cul­tur­al val­ues and had been used repeat­ed­ly in gen­uine cel­e­bra­tions. Of course, danc­ing can have wrong and evil man­i­fes­ta­tions, but that is anoth­er mat­ter entirely. …

Laugh­ing is anoth­er way we prac­tice cel­e­bra­tion. … Why not? Jesus had a sense of humor — some of his para­bles are pos­i­tive­ly com­i­cal. There is even such a thing as holy laugh­ter,” a fre­quent phe­nom­e­non in var­i­ous revival move­ments. … So, poke fun at your­self. Enjoy whole­some jokes and clever puns. Rel­ish good com­e­dy. Learn to laugh; it is a dis­ci­pline to be mas­tered. Let go of the ever­last­ing bur­den of always need­ing to sound profound. 

A third way to encour­age cel­e­bra­tion is to accent the cre­ative gifts of fan­ta­sy and imag­i­na­tion. … We who fol­low Christ can risk going against the cul­tur­al tide. Let’s with aban­don rel­ish the fan­ta­sy games of chil­dren. Let’s see visions and dream dreams. Let’s play, sing, laugh. The imag­i­na­tion can release a flood of cre­ative ideas, and it can be lots of fun. Only those who are inse­cure about their own matu­ri­ty will fear such a delight­ful form of celebration. …

[Anoth­er] thing we can do is to take advan­tage of the fes­ti­vals of our cul­ture and real­ly cel­e­brate. What a great cel­e­bra­tion we can make of Christ­mas. It does not have to have all the crass com­mer­cial­ism con­nect­ed to it if we decide we do not want it that way. Of course the giv­ing of gifts is a great thing, but we can give many kinds of presents. Sev­er­al years ago our young son Nathan, who was learn­ing to play the piano at that time, gave every mem­ber of the fam­i­ly a spe­cial gift — play­ing a song he had learned. He had great fun gift wrap­ping huge box­es and try­ing to get every­one to guess what their gift was. And then when they opened it, a note said he was going to play some lit­tle piece for them on the piano. How delight­ful! How fun! …

Cel­e­bra­tion gives us strength to live in all the oth­er dis­ci­plines. When faith­ful­ly pur­sued, the oth­er Dis­ci­plines bring us deliv­er­ance from those things that have made our lives mis­er­able for years which, in turn, evokes increased cel­e­bra­tion. Thus, an unbro­ken cir­cle of life and pow­er is formed.

Excerpt­ed from Cel­e­bra­tion of Dis­ci­pline, 3rd edi­tion (pp. 197 – 201), New York: Harper­One, 1998.

Starting Soon: The 2020-21 Renovaré Book Club

An inten­tion­al way to read for trans­for­ma­tion not just infor­ma­tion. Runs Sep­tem­ber 2020 through May 2021.

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