Excerpt from Spiritual Disciplines Handbook
“May the Son of God who is already formed in you grow in you—so that for you he will become immeasurable, and that in you he will become laughter, exultation, the fullness oj joy which no one can take from you. ”—Isaac of Stella

God celebrates. He invented delight, joy and celebration. And one way we enter into the divine life of the Trinity is through celebration. Whether solemn or exhilarating, formal or spontaneous, celebration can enlarge our capacity to enjoy and serve God. Celebrating God does not depend on perfect circumstances or happy feelings. Even in prison Paul and Silas found something to sing about (Acts 16). And Jeremiah, the weeping prophet, wrote:

My soul is downcast within me.
Yet this I call to mind
and therefore I have hope:
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning.
—Lamentations 3:20-24

Jeremiah found reason to delight and hope in God even in a lament.

The world is filled with reasons to be downcast. But deeper than sorrow thrums the unbroken pulse of God’s joy, a joy that will yet have its eternal day. To set our hearts on this joy reminds us that we can choose how we respond to any particular moment. We can search for God in all circumstances, or not. We can seek the pulse of hope and celebration because it is God’s reality. Heaven is celebrating. Right now the cherubim, seraphim, angels, archangels, prophets, apostles, martyrs and all the company of saints overflow with joy in the presence of their Creator. Every small experience of Jesus with us is a taste of the joy that is to come. We are not alone—and that in itself is reason to celebrate

To abandon ourselves to celebration can feel like a risky thing. What if we are misunderstood or seem to take hard things too lightly? King David was so “undignified” in his celebration of the Lord that his wife rebuked him for his public impropriety! But David replied, “I will celebrate before the Lord. I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes” (2 Samuel 6:21-22). Set your eyes on God as you celebrate, and forget how you look. God delights in all kinds of worship.

Reflection Questions

  1. Where are you most prone to celebrate God? Alone? With others? In worship? In music? In nature? What does this tell you about how God made you and how you most naturally meet with him?
  2. How is your celebration enhanced or curtailed by your ability to remember the past, live in the moment or anticipate the future?
  3. When you see others celebrating God in a way that is new or foreign to you, what goes on in your mind and heart?
  4. If there is a heaviness about you, an overly serious side or an entrenched critical spirit, how might celebrating God affect these traits and move you into new areas of transformation?
  5. Who do you know who really celebrates life and God?
  6. What attracts you to them?

SPIRITUAL EXERCISES

  1. Identify the place you most readily connect with God. Is it in nature? listening to Christian music? participating in corporate worship? solitude? Go to that place. What do you want to tell God about the joy you receive there?
  2. Intentionally place yourself in the presence of God. Recall all of God’s gifts, provisions, guidance and love toward you. • To celebrate God’s grace to you, write a song of celebration, make a collage that represents your joy, write a poem of praise, play music and dance before the Lord, or memorize a verse of praise and repeat it all through the coming days.
  3. Familiarize yourself with the church calendar. (If you don’t know about the church year, do a Web search for “church calendar.”) • Consider ways you can go all-out in your celebration of Lent, Easter, Pentecost, Advent, Christmas, Epiphany and All Saints Day this year. Plan a way of celebrating God alone or with friends.
  4. Attend to the people who give you joy. Ask God how you might celebrate them in a way that encourages them.
  5. Plan to celebrate someone’s birthday, Mother’s Day or Father’s Day in a way that reminds the person of how precious he or she is to you and to God.
  6. Consider how God loves you. Read Zephaniah 3:17. Then be still and listen. How is God celebrating you? • Celebrate the God who celebrates you. Intentionally ask for the gift of appreciating yourself the way God does.

Taken from Spiritual Disciplines Handbook by Adele Ahlberg Calhoun. ©2015 by Adele Ahlberg Calhoun. Used by permission of InterVarsity Press, P.O. Box 1400, Downers Grove IL 60515-1426. www.ivpress.com

Originally published October 2005.