Have you noticed at the pee wee football games nowadays that even the youngest of us know more about the “proper” touchdown celebration than we do about the fundamental techniques of the sport? I see this same tendencies in my elementary-aged sons who seem to know how to shuffle and point to the sky with the best of them. I believe this trend represents a microcosm of a broader tendency that we all struggle with no matter our age. By the way, the excessive celebration is often even greater on the pee wee football sidelines replete with vicariously gloating parents and grandparents. (The little jersey-cloaked glory hounds didn’t come out of nowhere.) While I am always up for a good party, may I remind you that the human condition that is on display especially in the virtual world is that we all tend to over-celebrate the insignificant.
The question is what weaknesses need confronted in our hearts that set us up for “excessive celebration?”
- We are selfish. (Let’s be honest enough to admit that often, even when we are hosting them, parties are about us. If you contest that, remember that last birthday party you hosted for your child and the unwritten but very palpable expectation for every invitee to deliver on a gift for your junior.)
- We are proud. (Parties can be too much about looking good, networking for our career, and showing off our social skills. This applies as much around the church house as the most raucous event in your region.)
- We are short-sighted. (As a church plant, we right now meet in a 30,000 square foot “party center.” I am amazed how many hours and months are invested to host a short evening of amusement that ends with the same soiled table clothes, deflated balloons, and now irrelevant decor that is bagged/vacuumed up in preparation for the next event. We foolishly live for celebrations that seem to end before they begin!)
- We think we need self-generated props and profile. (Selfies and the like so dominate the relational landscape that we feel we need…and must take daily pictures of ourselves in front of and beside all kinds of signage, monuments, and even the food we are about to eat. We are grasping for temporal props to ease the harsh reality that we and the world around us are fading without God in the mix.)
As C.S. Lewis observed, “It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
The solutions to such excesses are as follows:
- Refuse to add any overselling to personal accomplishments before they are completed. (One of the biggest letdowns in our celebrations is chronic over-promising and under-delivering. This commitment will protect you from trying to conjure up or sustain a concept, event, or product that honestly fails to deliver.)
- Let only the mouths of others praise what in your life should rightfully be celebrated. (This allows your lips to respond to praise instead of initiate praise; God gets glory from that sequence!)
- Celebrate the successes of others where there is no kickback for you. (This would exclude your kids, grandkids, spouse, etc. Columnist Rick Reilly recently gave this advice to rookie professional athletes: “Stop thumping your chest. The line blocked, the quarterback threw you a perfect spiral while getting his head knocked off, and the good receiver blew the double coverage. Get over yourself.”)
- Daily realize through ingesting of Scripture that the same God who gave us longing to celebrate also provides boundaries around and structure upon which to construct our praise. (This eliminates the emotionally oriented impulses to post thousands of pictures or updates over the shelf-life of your social media pages.
- Walk though each moment with a bounce in your step that is not empowered by fleshly impulses but submitting to the Spirit’s filling. (Spirit-generated celebration will never be overdone or contrived through artificial stimulants or mechanisms. In contrast, it possesses a natural, no supernatural flow that is always appropriate in intensity and duration.)
- And the big one is…draw your greatest reasons for perpetual celebration from who you are “in Christ” and His cross. (The greatest moments of celebration in human history and eternity will never revolve around you and the subject matter of my little world. They will always include “the name that is above every name” and those who have been humbly redeemed by the Lamb!)
Here is the celebration that should put into context any of our own in Revelation 5:
9And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; 10 And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth. 11 And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne and the beasts and the elders: and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands; 12 Saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing. 13 And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.
As one author put it, “Do you feel a need for affirmation? Does your self-esteem need attention? You don’t need to drop names or show off. You need only pause at the base of the cross and be reminded of this: The maker of the stars would rather die for you than live without you. And that is a fact. So if you need to brag, brag about that.”
Please understand that I am not celebratory Grinch, but would you take time to reflect upon the real why and weaknesses of how you “party”? Remember this with all the posts, tweets, and pics of your “pee wee” moments. Have your measured festivities but never forget the party that is to come. You can’t throw enough technology, inflatables, food, or even fireworks to supplant the celebratory presence of Jesus. See ultimately our innate desire to “dance in the end zone” reveals how desperate we are from our formative years through our most senior moments to get lost in the euphoric, lasting celebration for which only the God of heaven can and has sent out invitations.