If you really think about it, celebrations can be such a hassle sometimes. All the preparation, the invitations and RSVPs, the financial cost, the cleaning and baking and cooking, the hosting, the clean-up, it’s enough to make you wonder, is it really worth it?
In our family, we have a unique dynamic as it relates to celebrations. Starting with the month of October, we have a birthday in our family once a month for five straight months, October—February. Add to that the holiday season of Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s and that whole Pumpkin Spice Latte thing, and it is just too much celebration.
Maybe you’re thinking that I’m just a party pooper and maybe that’s the case, at least sometimes. However, I’m guessing that I’m not the only one who feels this way from time to time. If celebrating is supposed to be so good for us, why is it so hard to celebrate sometimes?
Certainly, we don’t need a guest list and food every time we celebrate, so I’m not talking about just party preparation. I’m talking about celebration as an attitude, celebration as an action, celebration as a way of life.
Listen to the apostle Paul,
“Rejoice in the Lord always, again I will say, Rejoice” – Phil. 4:4
The way this is written is actually in the form of an imperative command, God’s word here is commanding us to rejoice, to “be exceedingly glad.” And in case we missed it or wanted to ignore it, we are commanded twice in this short statement, “Rejoice.”
This reemphasis of the command to rejoice, along with the word “always”, seems to really drive the point home: we should be living lives characterized by rejoicing. The problem is, and I don’t know about you, I don’t always feel like rejoicing and certainly not in a manner where I would repeat the word, “rejoice” twice in the span of 10 words! How is it that God can command us to live a life of rejoicing even when we don’t feel like it?
Well, look at the next verse,
“Let your reasonableness be known to everyone.”
Huh? “Reasonableness?” I don’t know when you last used that ten-dollar word in a sentence but here it refers to “what is suitable.” So, we are to live lives of rejoicing, or celebration, because it is what is suitable for us as Christians? Yes, and here’s why, the very next statement, and this is Paul’s point:
“The Lord is near!”
That proclamation of truth stands alone right in the middle of this Philippians 4:1-9 passage as a one-line song of praise that really serves to give meaning to everything else around it. In its full measure, it is a proclamation that refers to a position of people who have unfettered access to God. In other words, why should we “not be anxious” (v. 6)? Because, “The Lord is near!” Why do we have “the peace of God that surpasses all understanding” (v. 7)? Because, “The Lord is near!” And why should we “Rejoice in the Lord always?” Because, “The Lord is near!”
It can be a struggle in our real, everyday lives to remember that rejoicing and celebration are supposed to characterize our lives, because sometimes it doesn’t feel that way. However, what never changes for the Christian is that the Lord is near to you. Let that sink into your mind and your heart until it becomes the one-line song of praise that you sing in the midst of your pain, your struggle, your boredom, your sin, and fight for it until it becomes thanksgiving.
The events that we remember during this Holy Week assure us that through what Jesus has done, He has brought us near. We invite you to join us tonight for our Good Friday service at 7pm and this Easter Sunday at 10:30am as we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus! Invite your friends and neighbors to join us!