Week 3 - Celebration
Celebrate Even When It's Tough
The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; He delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. The righteous person may have many troubles, but the lord delivers him from them all. Psalm 34 17-19
There are times in our lives when we have little to celebrate. For some of us, our lives have been scarred or marked by tragedy. In the middle of our intense pain, the idea of celebration seems distant, unattainable, unnatural, even sickening. The Christmas of 2004 was that time for me. Lisa, Chance, Brock and Reid, my wife and 3 young boys were killed that September. Christmas was unbearable.
The parties, holiday candy, the music, the commercials were uncomfortable and at times, infuriating. To this day, words cannot fully describe that time in my life. It was hard-very hard-but God was with me. I was being healed. Looking back I see He planted the seeds for future celebrations. I met my wonderful wife Penny that December. God delivered me. He delivered me from the pain and healed my broken heart. He renewed my spirit and heard my cries. I celebrate that the promises of Psalm 34: 17-19 happened to ME!
Maybe this year, Christmas 2017, is that tough year for you. If it is, I’m truly sorry. Please know that I have prayed for your comfort, peace and endurance. I have prayed for your heart to be healed. I have prayed that your spirit is renewed. I’m also praying that you see the seeds that God is planting during this time for you to celebrate. Celebrate that Jesus was born to save you and I. Celebrate the priceless family and friendships you still have. Celebrate your church family, your health, your job and your home.
Celebrate the Christmas TV shows of your childhood, the lights, parties, decorations and quirky family traditions. Celebrate the cookies, candies and treats. Find something-ANYTHING-to celebrate! Most importantly, celebrate that the words of Psalm 34: 17-19. Celebrate.
Remember the Reason
When I was kid, Christmas seemed absolutely magical to me. Maybe it was because I believed in Santa Claus and reindeer and elves. Maybe it was because I was too young to take it all for granted and hadn’t yet been too shaken by life to be in awe of the wonder of the birth of Jesus.
I’m still in love with Christmas. It’s still my favorite time of the year. But somehow, someway, it gets a little more tattered each year. Instead of truly celebrating and taking in the wonder, we get overwhelmed by all the people we have to buy presents for. We worry that those presents will be good enough or if we can even afford them. Maybe we’re thinking about our jobs and how we’re going to get all of our work done in time to actually enjoy the season.
For some of us, we think about the loss we’ve experienced. For some of us this time of year makes our disappointment or shame even more apparent.
I know a lot of us have valid reason for that. Life is hard and sometimes the holidays can be more of a reminder of what you don’t have. But I want to remind you this Christmas of the one thing you DO have: hope in Jesus.
So what if this Christmas, despite our feelings or the busyness or obligations, we chose to celebrate? What if we chose to actually focus on the wonder of it all? There is a reason behind the lights and the songs and the presents and the spirit of Christmas. God loved us so much that he sent his one and only son (John 3:16) to be born from a virgin, to make a way where there was no way, to give us hope for all of eternity.
May we be like children again, remembering the magic, the hope and the beauty of this advent- the birth of our Savior and King!
Celebrate the Simple Things
My husband and I have 5 kids, and as you can imagine life is already full of activity. I can get caught up in the business of the Christmas season. It’s an endless to do list that includes:
-Lights on the house
...and all of my regular every day to do lists!
If I’m not careful I forget to celebrate the simple things. Like my daughter’s first band concert. Our family spending time together, my youngest daughter buying presents for her siblings, and that all my kids liked their Christmas pajama’s this year.
It’s easy to lose sight of the reason we celebrate. The why behind the to do lists, and the hustle and bustle of the season. That in the middle of all the stresses, worries, and messes that life brings, Jesus should be in the center of it all. We have to be intentional to invite him into every moment, and not be distracted by life’s circumstances.
Take some time today and the days to come and remember to invite Him into every moment. Stop and pause and find Him in the simple things and truly reflect on the reason we celebrate!
…and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
Spiritual Growth Director
Celebrating God for Who He Is
Imagine it is someone’s birthday. Whether a co-worker, friend, or family member, you throw a party or buy a gift or sing Happy Birthday to them. You don't do these things for them to celebrate what they have “done” for you, but to celebrate them for just being who they are!
If you go to Disney World on your birthday, they give you a special pin that says “Happy Birthday: ______!”, and all day throughout the parks, their employees celebrate you by name.
Those people who are getting paid by the hour to dress up and operate rides have never benefitted anything from you, yet they celebrate you because it’s your birthday. They celebrate you for simply being you.
Celebration is a powerful thing. It has the power to lift your eyes above what is seen to the unseen. It can change your perspective and change your life if you let it. The Bible often describes celebrating God as rejoicing in Him. There are lots of Scriptures on rejoicing!
In the hardest of times, Habakkuk rejoiced:
“...Though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.” Habakkuk 3:17-18
In the everyday, Paul encourages us to rejoice:
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” Philippians 4:4
In the best of times, Mary rejoices in the coming of Jesus:
“And Mary said: ‘My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for He has been mindful of the humble state of His servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed…” Luke 1:46-48
I think that God desires us to celebrate more than just what He has done for us in the past year, but to celebrate Him for simply who He is. Our circumstances will change, but He remains the same. He remains good. And that is a reason to celebrate.
CELEBRATE God for who He is this Christmas. Because of who He is, He gave us Jesus.
Early Childhood Director
The year was 1996. I was 8 years old and the Game Boy Pocket was sweeping the nation. There were over 118 million Game Boys sold across the world and I wanted my piece of the gaming community. However, there was one speed bump slowing my chances to obtain my Game Boy, my family was vividly poor.
I knew that Santa wasn't real since I caught my father delivering gifts in his underwear the year before, so I knew it was in the hands of my loving, but under-resourced parents. The best day of the year came and I rose with much clatter racing to wake up the rest of the family and get the festivities started.
I tore through my presents as quickly as I was allowed, pausing between gifts for others to slowly open theirs. When the pandemonium was over, I sat there absent of a Game Boy. I remember I wasn't disappointed because I knew full well that it wasn't likely to happen.
But then, my mom asked if I saw the last gift behind the tree. Behind the tree? I hadn't thought to look there! I pulled out a small box fitting of a treasured shape. I tore it open like a carnivore in the wild and unveiled a Game Boy Pocket! I proceeded to scream, elated to have a gift I did not expect to get.
Twenty-one years later, I still have that same Game Boy Pocket. It is the most memorable material gift I've ever received because I wasn't expecting it.
The best gifts we get in life are the ones we are not expecting to actually get. And, in those rare occasions that we do receive the unexpected, we celebrate. The job promotion, a pregnancy, a brand new car, flowers at work, a puppy, a ring-on-one-knee, or even a Game Boy Pocket. We celebrate unexpected gifts and we remember those gifts the most.
Jesus' gift to us can seem too good to be true and it seems too expensive to actually afford. In truth, His gift to us is too expensive for us to afford. The price tag of life is even harder for us to comprehend. We see value in life but the value is so great we often describe it as priceless. Jesus, in all His goodness, saw the value of the life He gave and paid the priceless tag to restore it.
Jesus, taking the vulnerable form of man, gave us the gift that no one was expecting but that everyone was wishing for. A gift of connection between man and God. I received that priceless gift over 14 years ago.
It's just up to us to open the present that we could not earn. If we choose to open this treasured gift then our souls cry out in celebration! Why? Because it's the Christmas thing to do? Nope. Because we received the gift on the top of our list, and the gift that the world was not expecting. A gift of cemented joy found in the connection of our souls to our God. This is why Christmas is special to us and this is why we celebrate. The celebration began at the birth of Jesus.
Celebrate God's Goodness
Life's ups and downs can definitely feel like a roller coaster ride. Some might find this trilling while others stand back, afraid to step on the attraction at all. Through the holiday season, many emotions can feel magnified, but one expression shines through it all: celebration!
The moments in my life I've truly celebrated were each time I found out my wife and I were expecting a child to be born. Becoming a father was a soar of emotions for sure, but one word shined through it all: celebration! It was a proud moment and a miracle each time new life happened. Oh, how our families celebrated through hugs, photos, social media posts, phone calls, and presents.
As we go into this season I understand that not all who are reading this have experienced the celebration of becoming a parent for the first time. However, every person has experienced something on some level worth celebrating. Whatever season you may be in on your journey I want to encourage you to reflect on Jesus, God's only Son. He is the best gift of celebration ever given. Every year I celebrate the birthdays of my children because I love them.
The Bible is filled with many celebrations that reflected on the goodness of the Lord. Let’s celebrate Jesus because of His love he had for us before we ever knew Him. Celebrate His love that lasts for all eternity!
Ps. 135:3 “Praise the Lord, for the Lord is good; CELEBRATE his lovely name with music.”
There is a fascinating research study done by Vicki Medvec, a professor at Northwestern University. She studied Olympic medalists and she discovered that Bronze medalists were happier than Silver medalists. Here’s why: Medvec found that Silver medalists tended to focus on how close they came to winning gold so they weren’t satisfied with silver, while bronze medalists tended to focus on how close they came to not winning a medal at all so they were just happy to be on the medal stand!
I think that study reveals a fascinating facet of human nature: your focus determines your reality. How we feel isn’t determined by objective circumstances. If that were the case, Silver Medalists would be happier than Bronze medalists because they had an objectively better result. But how we feel isn’t determined by our objective circumstances. How we feel is determined by our subjective focus.
Here’s another way of saying it: we tend to see what we’re looking for.
That’s so true, isn’t it? All of us know people who can find something good to focus on even in the worst of circumstances. And all of us know someone who can find something bad to focus on even in the best of circumstances.
John Milton said it this way (probably in an amazing, Shakespearean accent): “The mind is its own place, and in itself, can make a Heaven out of Hell, a Hell of Heaven.”
That’s why I love what David writes in two separate chapters in the book of Psalms:
"I will bless the LORD at all times; his praise will forever be on my lips." Ps 34:1
"Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits." Ps 103:2
David determines in his heart and mind that at all times he will find something to praise God for because he is always looking for something to praise God for. This holiday season, we have the most obvious reason to give praise to God - the birth of His Son and our Savior, Jesus Christ. Start there and keep looking - you’ll be amazed at what all you see this Advent season.
What external circumstances are you focusing on?
What is something you can praise God for in the middle of those circumstances?
Keep a gratitude journal this week. Everyday, find something to be celebrate God for and write it down.