Go, eat your bread with enjoyment, and drink your wine with a merry heart; for God has long ago approved what you do. Let your garments always be white; do not let oil be lacking on your head. Enjoy life with the wife whom you love, all the days of your vain life that are given you under the sun, because that is your portion in life and in your toil at which you toil under the sun.
Have you see them? There are Christmas trees in the stores! There are decorations going up! I’m excited and ready to celebrate. I have always thought of the next six weeks as America’s ‘High Holy Days’. They are special days, sacred days, beginning with the quintessential American holiday, Thanksgiving. Quick on the heels of Thanksgiving come the days of Advent as we prepare ourselves for celebrating Christmas. Then we top it all off with New Year’s Day when, like the Roman god Janus (January’s namesake), we will look backward while looking forward. We pay attention to our lives and celebrate. God created and hardwired us needing to celebrate.
But strangely we are not always good at celebration, no matter the time of year. We want to celebrate, but don’t always know how. Some people actually feel guilty celebrating, especially when there is so much trouble and heartache in the world. There are people waiting permission to celebrate. They are like Mencken’s mock definition of a Puritan: someone haunted by the fear that someone somewhere might be having a good time.
Then there are those people who confuse celebration with excess. They imagine that overdoing and overspending for the holidays are the way to real enjoyment. The Jewish sage philosopher Abraham Heschel looked at our contemporary culture and observed:
People of our time are losing the power of celebration. Instead of celebrating we seek to be amused or entertained. Celebration is an active state, an act of expressing reverence or appreciation. To be entertained is a passive state — it is to receive pleasured afforded by an amusing act or spectacle….Celebration is a confrontation, giving attention to the transcendent meaning of one’s actions. (The Wisdom of Heschel)
It takes some thought and some conscious choosing to infuse all of life with celebration. Fortunately, God has given to us a whole book in the Bible that is about celebration: Ecclesiastes. It is a virtual handbook on celebration. While Ecclesiastes is often associated with a cynical, despairing look at life, it turns out to be quite the opposite. Yes, Solomon dares to look head on at the world’s evil and injustice, but then commends God’s gift of celebration (See 2:24-14; 3:12-13; 3:22; 5:18-20; 8:15; 9:7-9; 11:9-10).
In Ecclesiastes Solomon cautions us to not try and unscrew the inscrutable, but to know that God is on the throne. Know that God’s has everything well in hand. Actually, we honor God by celebrating Him and celebrating the life He gives us.
Take a few moments to reflect on God’s command to celebrate life as you read today’s Scripture taken from The Message translation:
Seize life! Eat bread with gusto,
Drink wine with a robust heart.
Oh yes—God takes pleasure in your pleasure!
Dress festively every morning.
Don’t skimp on colors and scarves.
Relish life with the spouse you love
Each and every day of your precarious life.
Each day is God’s gift. It’s all you get in exchange
For the hard work of staying alive.
Make the most of each one!
Whatever turns up, grab it and do it. And heartily!
Yes! God is good! He has everything under control. Don’t live with the brakes on! Celebrate!
Grace and peace,