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How do you celebrate? How does your ministry team celebrate together? Your church? Your youth group? Your family?

I’m not the best celebrator – I don’t like being the centre of attention, I’m quick to notice things that could be improved instead of things to be celebrated and if I’m not careful I can drift into thinking celebration is “unnecessary” or “immature”. However, my team and I need to celebrate.

In the book of Nehemiah, written after God’s people, the Israelites, return from a time of exile and while they were in the long process of rebuilding their lives and in particular rebuilding the Jerusalem walls, something very interesting happens. In Nehemiah 8 they begin reading and implementing their Bible (the Torah) afresh. On the second day of reading, they heard about the festival of booths, and so reinstituted its practice (Neh 8:13-18) – a community time of celebrating, rejoicing, singing, dancing and sharing food. When the people rediscovered their roots and their law the first thing they realized that had been missing was the celebrations, the opportunity to rejoice in God. Their sin, their failure, had been a failure to celebrate! The priests took this sin very seriously and called people to celebrate again.

Could you and I be accused of the same sin?

Can we look around and see reasons to celebrate God’s goodness each day?

Dietrich Bonhoeffer says “The fellowship of the table has a festive quality…Our life is not only travail and labor, it is also refreshment and joy in the goodness of God…God cannot endure that unfestive, mirthless attitude of ours in which we eat our bread in sorrow, with pretentious, busy haste, or even with shame. Through our daily meals He is calling us to rejoice, to keep holiday in the midst of our working day.” By the way, Bonhoeffer wrote this while in prison, receiving prison meals.

Each day has opportunities to celebrate.

Sometimes leaders can be downers, I don’t think we mean to be – part of it is as leaders we’re bent on always finding ways to make things better. It’s easy for us to focus on what needs fixing or tweaking. It can sometimes be harder for us leader types to focus on what needs celebrating!

But our teams need it, people need it!

As we seek to be missionaries as a way of life, where we live, work, study and play – celebrations are a great witness to our generous and good God.

Joy is God’s telos, His eternal destiny and purpose. God takes great delight in you, in His creation and in the redemption of all things. Yes, God is familiar with grief and anger, but those things are temporary, as a response to our broken and fallen world. Joy is God’s basic character. Even in, especially in, seasons of difficulty our choosing to take time to celebrate can be a defiant statement in this world, showing we know that brokenness does NOT have the final word in this world, Jesus does and will. Joy will return. Joy, as Karl Barth says is a “defiant nevertheless.” Today we will dance.

Here are some ways to celebrate, but I’m not the expert at it, so I hope to hear your ideas.

In a ministry team • Pick the goals, measurements or stories you will celebrate on the way to your vision. How will you celebrate them? • Get your team to share stories of where they saw God at work this week • Sometimes forgo your usual agenda and instead spend the time getting to know one another better over a meal, a game, a sporting event… it’s a way of celebrating the people/relationships you get to work with every day

In a work place • How can you honour people on their birthdays? • What accomplishments of co-workers can you recognize along the way? –presentation going well, promotions, a project finally getting done, someone taking the time to help out another department…

In a family / small group / roommates • Turn up the music and have an instant dance party • Make a list of the milestones your family/small group wants to celebrate. -First day of middle school? Spiritual markers – read the whole Bible…? Officially a teenager? Got a new job? Took an opportunity to share their faith with someone? • Take turns around the table sharing what you are thankful for from the week (maybe on Sundays or whatever day works best in your routine)

In a neighbourhood • Have a block party. Canada day is great for this, have fire-workers, but instead of waking up your neighbours, let them know when you’ll be doing it and invite them all • Figure out how to meet and help out new people that move to your block. Celebrate them and that they’ve been added to your section of the world. What could new people moving in need? What do they need to know about your neighbourhood? When’s garbage day? What needs to be racoon or deer proved? • If your neighbour goes through a season of construction, for example your street gets repaved, have a celebration at the end – let the kids play road hockey, bring out the BBQs…

-Renée @r_embree

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