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08 June 2012

The discipline of celebration

The discipline of celebration

Friday Night Theology may have popped into your inbox earlier than expected. The short working week following the Jubilee has had a disorientating effect, throwing us out of our natural rhythms. This ‘break’ in the everyday pattern of life has a wonderful effect, allowing us time to be with friends and family, to celebrate and relax.

The discipline of celebration is deeply rooted in a Christian model for life. In the very earliest chapters of the Bible, God takes time out from his work and celebrates what he has done. Leviticus 23 spells out seven annual feasts that Israel were to mark as ‘holy days’ or feast days. They would come before God in the temple, feast and celebrate, rest and remember the stranger. These days were designed to break the pattern of life, to help the people of God remember all that God had done and all that He had promised; where they’d come from and where they were heading. The descriptions of them are strikingly joyful: “And you shall take for yourselves on the first day the fruit of beautiful trees, branches of palm trees, the boughs of leafy trees, and willows of the brook; and you shall rejoice before the LORD your God for seven days.” (Leviticus 23:40)

The celebrations of the Christian church – Easter, Christmas and recently Pentecost – should have the same effect. Our own celebrations: birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, house warnings and goodbye parties can be the same kind of gifts if we celebrate them intentionally, noticing their meanings. Sixty years on the throne for our Queen was a wonderful opportunity for the nation to get together and rejoice, to think about how much has changed and also how much hasn’t. What other opportunities are there to celebrate in your family, church and community?

A Christian vision of the human person and a flourishing society recognises that people are not linear but cyclical. We are not like machines, able to keep going in one direction at one speed until we fall apart. We need rest, time for gratitude, time for community, time for contemplation. We are not pragmatic utilitarians, valuing only outputs and quantifiable gains. Time is not, as the saying goes, money, though it may be wealth.

The discipline of celebration forces us to get out of our rat runs and tram tracks, take a breath and look around us. If the Christian community can model both committed, passionate excellent work and the discipline of celebration, we’ll be pointing to something true and nourishing for us all.

Elizabeth Hunter – Director, Theos