Have you ever been to a party that wasn’t really for anything or anyone? If I had to guess, I’d say it wasn’t much fun. Maybe you’ve experienced the moment when it seems like everyone is sitting around just waiting for someone to think of something or to “make a move.” Yeah… It’s awkward…
Of course we can enjoy ourselves in almost any group especially if we’re with friends and loved ones, but without a clear reason for the gathering we run the risk of just being a smattering of individuals congregating in the same general geographical location (and that’s as boring as it sounds).
Is this just poor planning on the part of the host? Maybe. But the way I see it there are a couple of really important reasons that we gather, laugh and celebrate with others. There are of course others, but maybe these two will help bring some focus to your next gathering.
The first really important reason to celebrate is an event. Whether it’s a wedding, graduation, promotion or retirement, events give us reasons to be happy. Celebrating special events helps us to both acknowledge and reinforce their importance to us and to our community. It’s a way to put a stake in the ground and say “remember this moment. It matters.” It is a natural human tendency and it’s worth fighting for. Changes, achievements, joys and sorrows should be celebrated together.
The second motivating reason to celebrate is a person. If you’ve ever been to a funeral for someone who was well-loved, you know the power of celebrating a great person. We celebrate people on their birthdays, anniversaries, and often we celebrate people as we celebrate important events. What matters is that we know what we’re here to do: express our love, support, admiration and encouragement for people that matter to us. The purpose drives the program and lets us make the most of our time together.
Now these may seem really obvious, but I have been thinking about how we run the risk of missing out on these basic reasons to celebrate. It seems like more and more people are just not doing anything on their birthday or anniversary or letting important milestones pass by. The busier we get the harder it is for us to stop and have a party. But I would argue that to celebrate is part of what it means to be human and to live in authentic community. Joy is a precious gift from God, a treasure trove of riches waiting to be unearthed. We dare not lose something so precious.
Another reason I believe these are important is because they are right at the heart of why we gather to worship. In worship we do not gather merely because it’s fun, because we have to, or because we want to see what kind of great advice we will gain for our personal lives. We gather to celebrate a person (Jesus Christ) and to celebrate an event (the Cross). In our daily lives we quickly forget the centrality of Jesus and his relevance to our lives. As we gather to worship and remember Christ and the Cross over and over again. we are formed as individuals and as a community by this rhythm of remembrance.
Worship transforms our lives. Gathering to celebrate Christ, expressing sorrow and joy in the midst of community, actually trains us to live our lives the way God intended. It’s not surprising that Jesus was often found at the parties and banquets of his day. If you want meaningful relationships, learn to celebrate and have fun together. You may be surprised by what you learn, both about yourself, your friends and about our loving, laughing Father.