“Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
Matthew 11:28
K.J.V.

EXPLORATION

How To Handle Stress: 5 Lessons from the Life of Jesus

Lesson #5: Take time for celebration

“Celebrate” – To observe an occasion with respect, festivity, and rejoicing.”

“All our life is a celebration for us…we sing while we work…we pray while we carry out all life’s other occupations.”
Clement of Alexandria

How do I celebrate with rejoicing in my life?

INSPIRATION

“Rejoice, in the Lord always.  I will say it again.  Rejoice!”
Philippians 4: 4
K.J.V.

I’ve always enjoyed getting mail that looks like an invitation.  Whenever we get a special envelope in the mail that is a certain shape or type of paper, somebody will inevitably ask, “I wonder who is getting married?  Who do you think had a baby?  Who is graduating this time?”

Invitations are the way we often announce celebrations.  And celebrations are the way we commemorate the significant events in our lives.

Jesus knew a lot about invitations for the Scriptures tell us about many events He attended.  Weddings.  Dinners. And gatherings with friends.  Jesus was obviously a Man of the people – a “social” person. While He was a Man of prayer, He enjoyed socializing and taking time to celebrate.

In fact, I’ve chosen “Celebration” as Lesson #5 on stress-reduction from the life of Jesus, because joyous celebrations not only made Jesus’ life less stressful, they can do the same for you and me by bringing rejoicing and fulfillment into the everyday routine of our pressure-filled lives.

If we study the way Jesus enjoyed celebrating in His’ life, we’ll find His social activities focused on three areas:

            1.)        Celebration with family.

            2.)        Celebration with friends.

            3.)        Celebration with God.

Let’s take a moment to focus on each one of these areas individually. 

            1.)        Celebration with family.

I’ve always thought it was a wonderful way to begin a ministry when Jesus chose to perform His very first miracle at a wedding in Cana of Galilee.  The apostle John notes Jesus’ mother informed Him, when He arrived, the wine had run out, so Jesus decided to bring the enjoyment back to the party by “turning water into wine.”  In fact, the drink Jesus created was so wonderful the Bible says, “The governor of the feast called the bridegroom” and asked him why he had “kept the good wine” until the end of the reception (John 2: 1-10).  Some Biblical scholars feel this may have been a relatives’ wedding feast.  The Bible doesn’t say for certain.  However, we do know Jesus’ family was in attendance and it certainly wasn’t the last time we find Jesus with His family enjoying the fellowship of those He loved.  If we look closely at the events that mention Jesus and family, we’ll find that sitting down to eat was often part of the reason they came together.

I’d like to suggest we’ve lost something in our hustle-bustle world by not having family time around the meal table anymore.  Oh, we eat in front of a T.V.  We go out to restaurants.  We grab something at a fast-food drive through.  But we have little time to gather as families to celebrate and enjoy the bond of blood that makes us one.  Author Joan Chittister puts her finger directly on this problem when she writes, “The fact that we have turned our world into one large fast food drive-in or cafeteria line may be part of the reason that we have become such an alienated culture.  We never sit down long enough with anybody to get to know them, not even our families or our children.” How about a family celebration today, for no reason at all, except to enjoy the company of those we love.

            2.)        Celebrating with community.

Over and over again in the Gospels, we find Jesus socializing with friends.  Whether He was breaking bread with His disciples, feeding thousands with a few loaves and fishes, or going to someone’s house, Jesus enjoyed the company of His friends.  I like what Luke 11: 37 says, “A certain Pharisee besought Him to dine with Him, and He went in, and sat down to meat.”  You know, the Pharisees, as a group, weren’t too impressed with Jesus.  Furthermore, Jesus said some very harsh things about these “holy men.”  But what I love is that it didn’t stop Jesus from accepting and welcoming the invitation of someone who extended their hand in an act of friendliness.  Jesus enjoyed sitting down with company in a pleasant act of celebration.  It’s something you and I should take note of if we want to decrease the stress in our lives. I find this idea in the front of my mind having not long ago, been at a celebration honoring 20 years of work by one of our dearest of friends Cliff who has operated a Drug Rehabilitation program seven days a week, 365 days a year, for 20 straight years.  Nearly 250 people came together to “party” in celebration of Cliff’s life.  Twenty-five years ago, Cliff was in a penitentiary – sleeping on a cot in a cold cell.  There in the prison, this hard core drug addict, who stole and cheated to get money for drugs, found a hand stronger than the hand of addiction that clutched at his body.  The hand of God got a hold of Clifford’s heart and transformed it.  Once out of prison, he committed his life to helping adult men, like himself, get out from under the tyranny of drugs.  I’m going to tell you, watching the men all around the banquet hall stand up and testify to the power of Jesus in their lives, those who had once slept in gutters and haunted alleys looking for their next fix, brought such rejoicing into the room – talk about a stress reliever!  As Saint Exupéry writes, “There is no hope of joy except in human relations.”  And after an evening of watching how a community of love provides the lift we all need to traverse the bumpy places in our lives, I can say that celebration with friends is a stress-reliever, indeed!

            3.)        Celebration with God.

In Luke 4: 16 we read that, “And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up; and, as His custom was, He went into the Synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up for to read.”  When I think of Jesus, I find my thoughts filled with pictures of a deeply spiritual Man – a Man who was the leader of most of the celebrations He attended.  He was the One up front doing the teaching.  He could easily have been the One calling for the meeting.  And yet, in His busy schedule, with constant requests for His teaching and healing skills, Jesus took time, “as His custom was” to celebrate with God and other like-minded individuals at the synagogue. I’d like to offer this thought – one of the reasons for “church,” as we know it, is that our communion with God, in a community of spiritual persons, should be for us one of God’s stress reducers in a world of complicated daily living.  Celebration with God helps us take a step back from what we do, to remember who we are and our purpose here on earth. 

Jesus left us an example from His own life that by taking time to celebrate, to rejoice, and to enjoy the fellowship of family, friends, and God, these pillars can serve in helping us construct a stress-free life.  A life that has at its core the longing to find fulfillment as we follow the plan God has for each of our lives in the complicated world we live in.

“And now, let all our delights in, and all our value and fondness for our enjoyments be upon such a divine score as this.  As far as any of our enjoyments (celebrations) lead us unto God, let us relish it, affect it, embrace it and rejoice in it.”
Cotton Mather

AFFIRMATION

“Dear Lord,

Help me to dedicate this day and all my days to Your glory.  Without Your help I cannot forget myself.

Please help me to listen to other people’s problems and not overwhelm them with mine; to seek out the lonely and be a friend, to smile at people I pass on the way.

Help me to work quietly and efficiently and not for self-gratification (does it really matter if no one praises me for a job well done when in my heart I do it only for You?).

I know that at times I will fail, but the knowledge that You are always with me gives me the courage to go on.

With my thanks I dedicate my whole life to a “celebration” of Your glory.”
Heather Le Galley,
A Little Book of Women’s Prayers

Your friend,

Dorothy Valcarcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
Dorothy@Transformationgarden.com

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