Updated: Aug 31, 2022
What’s your theology of celebration? Is it simply a fun time with family and friends? Is the focus on a remembrance of some kind?
Or is it a form of idolatry?
This is an important topic that we often get tripped up on in one direction or another. I have a messy history with celebrations and I continue to hear stories from people who slip up in one of two ways:
They either throw it all out and don’t participate in holidays of any kind
they lose focus amidst the fun and find themselves in the land of idolatry by accident.
Personally, I lived most of my life believing all forms of celebration were idolatrous—I was putting something else above God, like my birthday, for example—and so my family pretty much didn’t do anything for anything. We celebrated Thanksgiving, which made no logical sense, but...I guess my dad liked turkey.
A study of scripture doesn’t support this view, though.
God instructed his people, very early on in the Old Testament, to set aside different timeframes that created a rhythm for celebrating. Here are some examples:
"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.” Exodus 12:14, stated in relation to Passover.
"Celebrate the Festival of Harvest with the firstfruits of the crops you sow in your field.” Exodus 23:16
"Celebrate the Festival of Weeks with the firstfruits of the wheat harvest, and the Festival of Ingathering at the turn of the year.” Exodus 34:22
And my favorite passage on this topic (it’s got everything):
Be sure to set aside a tenth of all that your fields produce each year. Eat the tithe of your grain, new wine and olive oil, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks [which were considered the best] in the presence of the Lord your God at the place he will choose as a dwelling for his Name, so that you may learn to revere the Lord your God always [revere means to have deep respect and admiration for]. But if that place is too distant and you have been blessed by the Lord your God and cannot carry your tithe because the place where the Lord will choose to put his Name is so far away [so you have been so blessed you literally cannot travel with 1/10th of what you’ve been provided with over the previous year], then exchange your tithe for silver, and take the silver with you and go to the place the Lord your God will choose. Use the silver to buy whatever you like: cattle, sheep, wine or other fermented drink, or anything you wish [anything you wish!]. Then you and your household shall eat there in the presence of the Lord your God and rejoice [he is the honored host]. And do not neglect the Levites living in your towns, for they have no allotment or inheritance of their own [all are invited and included in the celebration].
(Emphasis and brackets added.)
Celebrations are good. They should be fun. We should indulge as we’re able to do so.
Celebrations are not simply a fun time with family and friends. If they are, they could veer off into the idolatry realm and here’s why: We are missing the foundational elements of remembrance and worship.
Note these references from the texts I just read to you:
“Celebrate it as festival to the Lord”
“in the presence of the Lord your God”
“So that you may learn to revere the Lord your God always”
“You have been blessed by the Lord your God”
“Eat there in the presence of the Lord your God and rejoice”
“And do not neglect the Levites living in your towns, for they have no allotment or inheritance of their own”
Remembrance and worship are the underpinnings of celebration. We gather, we decorate, we eat too much food, we give gifts and share stories. Here is what can commonly be missed by those who do not avoid celebrations altogether: sharing those stories of how God has provided all that surrounds us, remembering his faithfulness throughout the previous year and years prior, and praising him for his continued faithfulness and blessings. And remembering to share our blessings with others who do not have the same blessings of their own.
The point: to revere God. Again, revere means to feel deep respect and admiration for.
Yes, celebrations are fun and happy and they should be! This joy comes from what God has done though, and what he has provided. We can’t leave him out of it. He’s the host and the guest of honor and needs to be recognized. Without these foundational elements—remembrance and worship—we are putting the party on a pedestal instead of the Provider.
That’s idolatry. Showing greater love and attention and appreciation to the event or the stuff or the people more than to God, who made it all possible.
So, are you someone who has thrown out celebrations as a whole? If so, I would encourage you to consider the biblical examples I gave. Check out the Denver Journal for reputable sources, if you want to investigate each of these examples more.
The world can be tough; let’s enjoy what we’ve been given, share it with others, and praise God for it!
If you’re someone who loves the planning and the party, but you’ve realized you have not been showing love to the real party Host, there are so many ways you can get your prioritization back in order. As we head into the season of Advent, choose a daily devotional to read independently or as a family. Livestream your local church’s service. Set a place setting at your holiday table as a reminder that God is present, and thank him.
Genuinely, thank him.
Call to Action:
What is one new way you can show God gratitude throughout your holiday celebrations this year? Prep as necessary and do it!
Take a picture and tag us on social media. We would love to join you!