The Lord says, “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught” Isaiah 29:13 (NIV).
Coming from a big family, like I do, big celebrations are something we share together throughout the year. Whether it’s a holiday, birthday or some other special occasion, we always make it a point to get the family together to celebrate.
It is not unusual for there to be 30 or more people gathering for these celebrations. My Mother is the oldest of 10 and I have 18 cousins and quite a few of my cousins have children of their own. Even with such a large group, we have managed to find a place or someone’s home where we make room, gather together and celebrate.
These days, it’s a bit more challenging because some family members live out of state, some have had babies, and others have health issues. Still, everyone makes it a point to see each other to celebrate at least once or twice a year. And those times are so special and create so many wonderful memories that will last me a lifetime!
In my readings this week, I studied Leviticus Chapters 21-25. I learned about rules and instructions for the Priests on holiness and acceptable offerings; various Festivals appointed by the Lord to His people; instructions on how to maintain the lamps and how to prepare the bread offerings to the Tabernacle; and also, guidelines concerning the Sabbath year.
As with all of God’s instructions and rituals he laid down for His people, He was detailed and purposeful in His plans. God wanted the Priests to live as holy a life as possible, in order for them to be good representatives of Him to His people. This required the Priests to give their best to God in serving Him, and it required the people to give their best in their offerings to God (see Leviticus Chapters 21 and 22).
Chapter 23 of Leviticus details all of the Festivals that God appointed to His people. Many of these Festivals, like Passover and Pentecost (also called the “Festival of Weeks”), were meant to remind the people of God’s protection over them and also to celebrate their new life with God (see Leviticus Chapters 23:4-21).
Others, like the Festival of Trumpets, Day of Atonement, and Festival of Shelters, were meant to be spent in reflection with God. The people were not to work and were to set aside “a day of complete rest” (see Leviticus Chapters 23: 23-43). These festivals were more solemn in nature and were meant to teach the people about who God is, what he had done for them and serve as a time to affirm their commitment to Him.
God wants us to celebrate Him. He wants us to take the time in rejoicing in Him and in what He has provided to us in our lives. He also wants us to reflect on what it means to be a Child of Christ. As John 1:29-30 so eloquently states, “…Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! He is the one I was talking about when I said, ‘A man is coming after me who is far greater than I am, for he existed long before me.”
All of these Festivals point toward Jesus and what His sacrifice has done for all of us. We don’t celebrate the same way the people did back in Old Testament times, but that doesn’t mean we don’t celebrate or recognize Christ in our lives today. That has forced me to look a little closer at how I celebrate my new life in Christ and the many blessings He has provided in it. Aside from celebrating the typical religious holidays and attending Church services regularly each week, I don’t always do a good job of intentionally setting aside other days for celebration and refection.
Pondering the idea, I came to realize that one way I can celebrate is by having a simple meal with friends to share in God’s word and how He is speaking to us in our lives, like Christ did so many times with His people throughout scripture . Another way could be taking a walk at the park with my son, pointing out all of God’s beautiful creations that surround us. It doesn’t have to be elaborate or fancy, just special.
Parties and celebrations are important and special. It’s what we look forward to, especially after all of the work we do in our day-to-day lives. And it is just as important and special to God. Isn’t it wonderful that he wants to celebrate and just be with us?
“Father God, I never want to take my relationship with you for granted. Please help me to set aside more time to make you a part of my celebrations and also in setting aside more quiet time for reflection. Without your blessings, I would not have the love of family and opportunity for celebration. I am so grateful for my new relationship in Christ and want to continue to be transformed and grow in your love. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”