My friend Gary works at a well-known missions organization in Virginia. Daily, he is bombarded with email after email from devoted workers all over Africa requesting help to bring the light of Jesus to the Dark Continent. Many of these emails are filled with heart-wrenching stories of desperation from brave men and women crying out on behalf of their people. The need for basic resources like water and food are as common as the plea for assistance with travels or monthly support for a missionary who is committed to taking the hope of salvation into bleak, and often dangerous places.
Sometimes the responsibility of making decisions concerning so many people sits heavy upon my friend’s shoulders. I see it in his countenance and hear it in his voice as he realizes he cannot possibly help every person who contacts him. There simply are not enough funds to go around, and the duty of picking and choosing how and to whom he can respond can sometimes make his tasks seem less than joyful. I daresay such is the case for most of Gary’s coworkers, too.
Noticing the atmosphere around the office had grown a bit solemn, my friend decided to bring a little joy into their midst. One particular day, he bought a cake, then called everyone to join him in a meeting. A consistent thing about missions organizations is their penchant for hosting a myriad of meetings, so it was just natural for folks to make their way to Gary’s gathering. I can only envision the puzzled looks from coworkers as my friend stood there smiling and passing out platefuls of cake. No other reason for the meeting than a call for celebration.
This simple act of joy invited others to join with it, lightening the responsibilities and reminding each person of the real reason they were there — God’s goodness and grace had invaded their lives and called them to share it with others. No matter the amount of need surrounding them on a daily basis, the One who bears them all was still very much present, and very much deserving of being celebrated.
Luke 2:25-33 tells of a man who was given a similar invitation to celebrate, but in his case, the privilege of experiencing Jesus’ presence showed up in a very special way:
Now there was a man in Jerusalem named Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. The Holy Spirit had revealed to him that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. Led by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. And when the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for Him what was customary under the Law, Simeon took Him in his arms and praised God, saying:
“Sovereign Lord, as You have promised, You now dismiss Your servant in peace.
For my eyes have seen Your salvation, which You have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to Your people Israel.”
The Child’s father and mother were amazed at what was spoken about Him.
Joy showed up in the middle of an ordinary day, and Simeon was ready to embrace it. Year after year had passed, one seemingly uneventful day unfolding upon another, until the Consolation of Israel appeared and was literally within his grasp. Can you imagine the joy Simeon experienced in knowing the fulfillment of God’s long-awaited promise was enfolded in his aged arms. Oh, Simeon’s strength may have waned with the passing of years, but his muscles were still firm enough to cradle their Creator. His arms still stalwart in their ability to lift in holy wonder and praise the One who was the fulfillment of all promises. The fulfillment of all joy.
Despite the passing of time, the promise of consolation remains present. We would do well to remember that a call for celebration is always in order, yet the sad reality is that we sometimes forget. If Christians who work in full-time ministry opportunities can overlook the reason they do what they do, day after day, then those of us who are working in secular jobs can, as well. It would seem a little shaking is in order to broaden our vision beyond the chaos swirling in our own lives.
Sometimes what we really need is just a piece of cake, accompanied with an invitation to come and celebrate anew the One who is the fulfillment of our joy. To look again toward Bethlehem’s glow and realize the miraculous occurring all around us still — these incredible gifts of redemption and hope and freedom flung lavishly from Divine hand. This is the reality of the world in which we live, a world drenched in God, even though it is once again a world in waiting.
We would be wise to blow off the smoke screen of lies laid down by Satan and to embrace our consolation. To remind ourselves and each other that the God of angel armies is not just behind the scenes but front and center in this battle to bring joy and peace and goodwill to all people. He will reign victorious, and all the earth will see Him and bow before Him.
But in the meantime, we need to live in full remembrance of this truth. While we wait, let’s not forget that Light has come, and life is ours — to have and to live to the uttermost.
As Tullian Tchividjian writes in his book, Surprised By Grace: God’s Relentless Pursuit of Rebels:
The gospel doesn’t make bad people good; it makes dead people alive. That’s the difference between the gospel of Jesus Christ and every other world religion.
If you are in Christ Jesus, then you are a dead man made alive. No longer bound to sin. No longer set to perish in the grave. You are made ALIVE in Christ Jesus, the Messiah. Talk about a reason to celebrate!
So if the place you’re working or dwelling seems a bit devoid of joy, I encourage you to buy a cake and break out the party hats. After all, the world desperately needs a few more people who celebrate, not just at Christmas, but every day of the year.
It’s time to write those party invitations and join with the shepherds who crowded around manger of old.
It’s time to worship both the newborn and the coming King as you tell everyone the good news of joy fulfilled.
In short, it’s time to celebrate!
Are you the type of person to bring in cake for a crowd, or are you more likely to avoid the invite altogether? How often do you really celebrate the goodness of a faithful God? If you are a Christian, then every day should be a party in your heart that overflows to the world around you. May you rise up with the likes of Simeon and cradle the gift of consolation and joy that is at your fingertips. Jesus has come, my friend, and He is coming still. Are you willing to celebrate through the waiting?