“It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found” (Luke 15:32 ESV).
In the parable of the prodigal son, the older brother complains to his father about the party that’s being planned to celebrate the return of his younger brother. His killjoy spirit reminds me of the way Judas responded to the extravagant gift that Mary gave Jesus, when she anointed his feet with a pound of pure nard and wiped them with her hair.
Both the older brother and Judas were party-poopers!
Or maybe there was something more going on in these men. Both of them revealed a kind of bitterness and bankruptcy of the soul. They questioned extravagance in anything: Extravagant giving, extravagant celebration, extravagant forgiveness… extravagance seemed wasteful to them.
Yet, God takes the time to celebrate. He took a day off on the seventh day of creation. He certainly wasn’t tired, so perhaps he just wanted to take the time to celebrate. He looked over everything he had made and said, “Good job! It’s good.” And he taught us to do the same. He made it one of his top ten: “Remember the Sabbath.” Set it apart. Make it a day when you rest from your labors to celebrate God’s good gifts.
We recently took a team on mission to Guatemala. Our going to Guatemala was a kind of celebration. We were putting Christ’s call to go to the nations ahead of our own concerns. Pulling away from our own stuff and our own effort, we went to Guatemala. True celebration, true worship always involves pulling one’s affections off their own stuff and putting them on God.
While we were in Guatemala they had a birthday party for me and another team member. They had a cake with candles, they sang, they even put off firecrackers. They took the time to celebrate with us. We felt special and loved. The Guatemalans may not be as wealthy as Americans, but they are very rich in knowing how to celebrate.
Taking time to celebrate may seem extravagant. Some would say it’s a waste of time and money. Yet, God desires it. He has given us many gifts, but certainly the most extravagant is Jesus. When we take time to worship Jesus, we are expressing our love and thanks to God.
Celebrating God’s Son we join in heaven’s joy. We admit our dependence on God and our inability to save ourselves. For we were once dead and now we are alive. We were once lost but now are found. We cannot add to this through our own effort. But we can take time to celebrate it.
Here is a video report of our Guatemala Mission Trip. We offer it as a kind of celebration for the extravagant joy that we have in serving Christ and carrying his gospel to the nations.