Many times in life we separate matters of faith and fun. We think when we come to church we have to be solemn and quiet. We dare not laugh too hard, tell too many jokes, or have too much fun…in church!
From everything I see in the New Testament, Jesus knew how to party. He loved weddings, dinner parties, and festivals like Passover. We read about Him singing, eating, and enjoying His friends. We also find Jesus at times broken-hearted, teaching for extended periods of time, or in deep concentration in prayer, but almost as equally He is seen celebrating life (see footnote at the end of this article for a few examples).
The dichotomy of focused and fun in the life of Jesus is always interesting to me. We struggle with even picturing Jesus smiling. I was at a Christian art museum in Eureka, Arkansas, once where we came across what looked like a painting of Jesus smiling. The students I was with looked with confusion in their eyes, then voiced how it felt almost wrong to see such joy on the face of Christ. I believe that feeling was there because we don’t teach it or show that joy near as often in our portrayals of Christ. It wasn’t until “The Chosen” TV show that I saw Jesus depicted as smiling, laughing, and joking with the disciples.
This idea that Jesus was just serious and stoic all the time must end; it doesn’t reflect Scripture or the character of Christ. John 2:1-12 describes the story of Jesus at a wedding in Cana. For context, these wedding feasts could last for days with tons of *gasp* dancing , food, and wine. In this story, Jesus helps the family throw the feast when they run out of wine. He makes more wine for them to save them from humiliation—not just your average wine, but literally the best wine the host has ever tasted! My point here is that Jesus had fun; He celebrated life and helped others to celebrate it, too!
Jesus lived with joy. His life on earth shows us what it means to be truly, fully human in the way God intended—and that involves joy, fun, and celebration. He did not die on a cross and resurrect from the dead for us to live a joyless existence. A life of hum-drum, drudgery, and carefully-restrained emotions is not what God planned for His people. On the contrary, He calls us to a hard, painful, beautiful, joyful life. A life where we can have joy amidst the suffering. Where we can have victory even in death. That’s why He gave us so many reasons to celebrate!"Jesus lived with joy. His life on earth shows us what it means to be truly, fully human in the way God intended – and that involves joy, fun and celebration." -Christina Boatright #collegiatedisciplemaker Following Jesus in the Art… Click To Tweet
Celebration can fill even the darkest times with light. Celebrate God’s glory, His sacrifice, the life He is giving us, and all the little moments of life we often take for granted. Have people over, eat food, laugh, play games, talk about the love of God, hug people, go hiking, go to church and praise God! Live a life filled with celebration because life is hard enough.
When I was in the depths of depression and grief, my therapist suggested writing down the things I’m thankful for. This helped show me all the things in my life worth celebrating. It didn’t necessarily cure depression, but it gave me enough hope to take one step at a time into the light of joy. I celebrated getting out of bed, I celebrated pizza, and I even celebrated being able to leave my house. Slowly, with help of my therapist, doctor, and loved ones, I found the joy in life again. I cannot take for granted the opportunity to celebrate, as they are some of my life’s most treasured memories. Don’t take for granted those opportunities, either, because they are gifts from God to hold onto when life is hard.
Cultivating a Spirit of Celebration
Here are five practical ways you can cultivate a joyful spirit of celebration within your life.
- Be thankful: 1 Thessalonians 5:18 says “In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” Choosing gratitude in EVERYTHING, the good and the bad, can really change your attitude. Keep a running list on your phone, and make a point to add to it on your toughest of days.
- Practice mindfulness: this simply means being present in the moment. Sit still for a moment and listen to the work around you. Quiet your thoughts, turn off your phone, and just be still. Take time to enjoy the simple moments like eating your favorite food, listening to your favorite song, and breathe just breathe. These are all good gifts from God; enjoy them.
- Take a nap: sleep can bring profound amounts of joy, you cannot be joyful and be sleep deprived. Take the time to rest your body and mind.
- Go out with friends or throw a party: Last summer my best friend and I went to Colorado on a hiking trip. One evening our plans changed, and we were able to go to a formal tea party at a castle! We had so much fun dressing up, eating tiny fancy food, and drinking tea with our pinkies out. Go have some fun. Jesus doesn’t mind, and we humans need to celebrate life more!
- Sing and dance: I’m not the best dancer (nor the best singer), but some days you need a dance party in your life and to sing your favorite song at the top of your lungs with the car windows rolled down! In Matthew 26:26-30, Jesus performs the last supper. Verse 30 says, “After singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives”. One of the last things Jesus did before crucifixion was sing.
When life gets hard, call out to Jesus, surround yourself with His words and His people. Find reasons to laugh, to be in awe of something glorious, to rest, to love. That is the best way to celebrate all that you have.
Examples of Jesus’s propensity for celebration can be seen in verses such as:
- Luke 5:27-32: Jesus calls Levi to follow him. They go to Levi’s house for a huge banquet.
- Luke 10:38-42: Jesus goes to Mary and Martha’s house to hang out with his friends and eat good food. Martha was so stressed about it being good enough that Jesus literally had to tell her to stop worrying and simply enjoy His presence.
- Luke 15:15-23: In this parable about the kingdom of Heaven, Jesus talks about a man throwing a large banquet where the people he invited decided they didn’t want to come. The man sent his servants out and invited everyone they could find until the party was full! This tells me that Jesus sees the Kingdom of Heaven like a giant banquet/party where everyone is invited to come.