Celebrating Joy

For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine; and you say, “he has a demon!” The Son of man came eating and drinking; and you say “here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners” Luke 7:33-34

One of the accusations made by the religious leaders of Jesus’ day was that he partied with undesirables. It was unacceptable to them to associate in any way with anyone who was undesirable (gentiles, sinners etc.). To do such a thing would make them unclean. John the Baptist did not drink wine or eat bread and was also disrespected by the religious elite. Then as now, religion was thought to be serious business, way too serious for the kind of celebrations that Jesus clearly enjoyed. Religion was limited to deep theological arguments and waxing eloquent in spiritual discourse, not going to dinner parties with unsavory characters. And God forbid, tax collectors! I know many Christians that struggle with the story of Jesus making wine when the host ran out at the wedding in Cana. I once heard a Pentecostal pastor speak on this text and it was unthinkable to this pastor that Jesus would actually do something like that.

In Luke chapter 15 Jesus told stories about God’s love for celebrations. When the lost coin is found, the finder invites her friends to celebrate with her. When the rebellious son returns home, the father throws a feast in his honor. When a single person repents, Heaven rejoices. Wow, Heaven must be a non-stop party! Yes, Jesus the man of sorrows, was also a man of celebration and joy.

Like the religious leaders of Jesus day, some may find themselves resistant to joy. And they are definitely not going to anybody’s party. We may resist joy because life has been filled with disappointment, one after another. Some resist joy because we don’t see it as being compatible with a serious-minded person of faith. We may resist joy because we have been shamed for our former lifestyle of excessive partying. I recall after becoming a Christian, joining a small church and taking new member classes. During one of the classes, the brother proceeded to tell me all the activities that members in the church abstained from. He said “we don’t go bowling. We don’t go to the skating rink or any place sinners hang out.” I asked him “well what do we do for fun” He replied, “church, we come to church!”

Some of us may need to make room for joy in our lives. Joy requires that we be open to the possibility of conflicting emotions. Some need to come to grips with the fact that Jesus obviously loved a good celebration and we may need to give ourselves permission to enjoy one too. If we wait until all the anger, grief, guilt and shame are gone out of our lives, it may be too late. “Weeping may endure for a night, but Joy comes in the morning.” We need to follow Jesus’ example and experience joy today. I pray that as you go through the holiday season that you would experience all the joy that God has for you. Not only is this the season of lights. It is the season of Joy and celebration. “Joy to the world, the Lord is come……”