Excerpt from The Making Of An Ordinary Saint

The spir­i­tu­al dis­ci­pline of cel­e­bra­tion leads us into a per­pet­u­al jubilee of the Spir­it. We are rejoic­ing in the good­ness and the great­ness of God. As Saint Augus­tine said, The Chris­t­ian should be an alleluia from head to foot.“1

Cel­e­bra­tion comes to us as the result of all the spir­i­tu­al dis­ci­plines hav­ing done their work in our lives. The desired goal of the spir­i­tu­al dis­ci­plines is to pro­duce in us a deep char­ac­ter for­ma­tion. The fruit of the Spir­it is the holy habits” of a tru­ly formed life. In greater and deep­er mea­sure our life is being pen­e­trat­ed through­out by love, joy, peace, patience, kind­ness, gen­eros­i­ty, faith­ful­ness, gen­tle­ness, and self-con­trol.”2

This deep-root­ed char­ac­ter for­ma­tion brings bal­ance to our lives. Anger, bit­ter­ness, resent­ment, ran­cor, hos­til­i­ty, deceit — these things sim­ply do not have the same con­trol over us that they once did. We feel the impact of this in all our rela­tion­ships: with our spouse, with our chil­dren, with our co-work­ers, with our neigh­bors, with our friends. Even with our enemies. 

When the sub­stance of our life is formed and con­formed and trans­formed into Christ­like­ness, then cel­e­bra­tion becomes pos­si­ble. No longer do we under­mine or sab­o­tage the good work of God. We can sim­ply and joy­ful­ly cel­e­brate the good­ness of God in us and in those around us. Cel­e­bra­tion is made pos­si­ble as the com­mon ven­tures of life are redeemed. 

Joy is at the heart of cel­e­bra­tion. Indeed, I rather imag­ine it’s the engine that keeps the entire oper­a­tion going. The joy of the LORD is your strength,” declared Nehemi­ah.3 And so it is. With­out joy pen­e­trat­ing all the dis­ci­plines, they will quick­ly dete­ri­o­rate into anoth­er set of soul-killing legalisms. 

Per­haps the most impor­tant ben­e­fit of cel­e­bra­tion is that it saves us from tak­ing our­selves too seri­ous­ly. It is an occu­pa­tion­al haz­ard of devout folk to become stuffy bores. Cel­e­bra­tion deliv­ers us from such a fate. It adds a note of gai­ety, fes­tiv­i­ty, and hilar­i­ty to our lives. 

Cel­e­bra­tion gives us per­spec­tive on our­selves. We are not near­ly as impor­tant as we often think we are, and cel­e­bra­tion has a way of bring­ing us the need­ed bal­ance. The high and the mighty and the weak and the low­ly all cel­e­brate togeth­er. Who can be high or low at the fes­ti­val of God? Togeth­er the rich and the poor, the pow­er­ful and the pow­er­less all share in the good­ness of God. There is no lev­el­er of caste sys­tems like festivity. 

Cel­e­bra­tion is not just an atti­tude but also some­thing that we do. We laugh. We sing. We dance. We play. The psalmist described the joy-filled cel­e­bra­tion of the peo­ple of God com­plete with tim­brel and dance, with trum­pet and lute and harp, with strings and pipe and loud clash­ing cym­bals. In cel­e­bra­tion we cel­e­brate! Cel­e­bra­tion is one of those things that does not dimin­ish with use. Rather it mul­ti­plies. Cel­e­bra­tion begets more cel­e­bra­tion. Joy begets more joy. Laugh­ter begets more laugh­ter. I have found that times of gen­uine cel­e­bra­tion have the poten­tial of bring­ing heal­ing and whole­ness to the entire com­mu­ni­ty. So … let’s celebrate! 

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Fos­ter, Nathan. The Mak­ing of an Ordi­nary Saint: My Jour­ney from Frus­tra­tion to Joy with the Spir­i­tu­al Dis­ci­plines. Bak­er Pub­lish­ing Group.

For each chap­ter in Nathan’s book, Richard Fos­ter writes an intro­duc­to­ry essay — like this one from the chap­ter on Celebration.

[1] Saint Augus­tine quot­ed in Eugene H. Peter­son, God’s Mes­sage for Each Day: Wis­dom from the Word of God (Nashville: Thomas Nel­son, 2004), 227.
[2] Gala­tians 5:22 – 23
[3] Nehemi­ah 8:10

Originally published October 2014