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.