Introductory 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.

📚 The 2022 – 23 Ren­o­varé Book Club

This year’s nine-month, soul-shap­ing jour­ney fea­tures four books, old and new, prayer­ful­ly curat­ed by Ren­o­varé. Now under­way and there’s still time to join.

View Selections & Learn More >