A Reason to Celebrate by Colleen Derr

Red, white and boom – Americans enjoyed great firework shows on the 4th of July. One of the largest firework displays was held in New York City and included over 40,000 exploding shells with millions of spectators in person and online as the United States celebrated its 237th birthday. As a culture, we love to celebrate.

What do our celebrations say about the things we value?

As a nation we value independence and freedom – so we celebrate July 4th with firework displays. We value athletic superiority and throw parades for teams who are crowned champions and hail as heroes Olympic gold medalists. We value a daring spirit and devote hours of media programming to those who attempt the unbelievable such as successfully walking across the Grand Canyon on a tight rope or free-falling from outer space. Not all of our celebrations are as grand as July 4th – we celebrate anniversaries with cards, birthdays with candles, and even “participation” with ribbons.

Our celebrations give us an opportunity to remember, honor, and share in the victory. Celebrations tell a story, teach about what we value, and help create community.

What are some of the things your church or ministries have celebrated and what do those things say about what your community of faith values?

In Exodus 12 the Israelites were directed to commemorate with a celebration their salvation from the plague of death with the Passover Feast and their deliverance from bondage in Egypt with the Festival of Unleavened Bread: “This is a day you are to commemorate; for the generations to come you shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord—a lasting ordinance” (v. 14, NIV). These festivals continue today as continuing generations learn of God’s grace through celebration!

As a little girl I remember services when people would stand to their feet and share stories of deliverance, salvation, repentance, and sustaining grace. These times of testimony became moments of celebration that helped us remember God’s faithfulness and celebrate His work. They also became instruments of teaching and forging of community.

Many of us have moved away from the Sunday night testimony service, but there are still many reasons to celebrate and a variety of ways to celebrate. Like the Israelites do you celebrate freedom from bondage and deliverance from the plague of death? Do you celebrate new life in Christ, commitments to faith, milestones in spiritual formation, and spiritual victories? Like the testimony services of old do you celebrate sustaining grace, physical healings, and demonstrations of the Spirit’s power? Are baptisms, first communions, births, new memberships, and answers to the call more than just responses on annual reports but opportunities to celebrate, commemorate, and teach?

Our celebrations give us an opportunity to remember, honor, teach, and form. Together we honor what God has done in our past, rejoice over what He is doing in our present, and anticipate what He will do in our future.

As we look forward to a year filled with grace, victory, and hope what are the things we should be celebrating and how should we celebrate so that all the generations including those yet to come will put their trust in the Lord?

  • B. Whitesel

    Thank you Dr. Derr for these reminders about the strategic importance of sharing what God is doing. Among today’s emerging generations, where experience trumps “book learning,” your suggestions are a welcomed reminder that testimonial celebration deserves a place in our congregational life.

  • Pastor Dawson

    Thank you Dr. Derr for the reminder that it is important to reflect and give thanks to the God who makes all things possible.

    As I read this words of praise and truth it brought me to a place in my inner self where I have been looking at my situation and not so much at the God who controls the situation. These words reminded me that I serve a mighty God who has done great things for me.

    We often look at the struggles and disappointments that life brings and we forget that all though we are going through challenges we have been through things before and by reflecting on the victories we have made it through! We an rest assured that we have reason to celebrate because our God is faithful. He is the same God who brought us through even historically and He will bring us through now!

    So what I take from Dr. Derr. today is celebrate in advance because the bible says “we know all things work together for the good for them who love God and those who are called according to His purpose.” Celebrate your coming out, your victories, and your struggles! Then celebrate with those around you! Those you know and love and those who share with you!

    Let us Celebrate because no matter what you are facing when you reflect you will see God’s blessings down through the years! This has made me desire to rejoice in the midst of it all! Rejoice again I say rejoice!

    Blessings TD