Some time ago I was part of a group discussion on feasting, fasting and faith based on Isaiah 58. One of the statements made was that “we” (Christians associated with one particular faith tradition) really need a theology of celebration. I have pondered that turn of phrase for some time. The more I think about it, the more I think of one February day . . .
I spent the morning celebrating the life of Sammie, a young woman we met when she was just an adolescent and attended Family Retreat with her family. She was full of energy, and had a zest for life that could not be defeated by her cerebral palsy. Her enthusiasm (mixed with her moms advocacy) led her to become a cheerleader. Sammie and Jerry enjoyed racing their wheelchairs with one another and anyone else brave enough to take them on! I recall one night at the campfire. Sammie knew that s’mores were always a part of the campfire and she grew tired of waiting for them. She asked me when we were going to start roasting marshmallows. I wished I knew the answer and encouraged her to ask the campfire emcee . Once he acknowledged her she became too shy to ask her question, so I spoke for her. From that night on she earned the nickname of “Marshmallow Girl” with us and Jerry was always “Marshmallow Man” to her. We didn’t see one another often after that year, but kept in touch by Facebook, always using the Marshmallow monikers.
All too soon (from our perspective) God called Sammie home to Him. Celebrating her life with her family and friends was a sweet time of sharing stories and comfort, ultimately remembering that Jesus is the giver of life; both here on this earth and eternally!
That same evening happened to be Tim Tebow’s Night to Shine prom for adults with disabilities. Talk about a celebration . . . Jerry and I were part of 105 volunteers serving 87 guests along with many parents and caregivers. Our role was to greet people. We saw heels, tuxes, sparkling dresses, beautiful hair up do’s and everything else that goes into a prom. Better than the styles though were the smiles that spread widely across each person’s face. Riding in a limo, walking a red carpet, having “paparazzi” snapping photos, being served a meal, dancing like there was no tomorrow. True joy and happiness overflowing.
That day, my friends, is a practical theology of celebration that reflects the systematic theology of celebration:
Live life with the Joy of the Lord as our strength (Nehemiah 8:10)
Mourn with those who mourn (Romans 12:15 NIV)
Rejoice with those who rejoice (Romans 12:15 NIV)
All in one day, Because God is good.