By Kyle Romine, former Intern
All throughout history, man has gathered to celebrate for a variety of purposes. Births, weddings, military victories, memories, and accomplishments have brought people together to rejoice for thousands of years. But central to the Christian Festival is something totally absent from other festivals of this world: God. God has so filled our hearts with joy that it is only natural for Christians to celebrate.
The river of celebration runs deep in the Christian tradition. Beginning in the Old Testament, we find a long list of God-centered Festivals. There were the Feasts of Booths, Weeks, Trumpets, Lots, Passover, and the Day of Atonement. A common theme among the feasts was rejoicing in Yahweh. When addressing the Feast of Booths in Leviticus, the Levites are told, “…and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God seven days. You shall celebrate it as a feast to the Lord for seven days in the year.” (Lev. 23:39). A further study of Jewish and Christian history would reveal an even longer list of God-centered celebrations. So, contemporarily, we find ourselves at the end of a rich history of Jewish and Christian Festivals.
It is easy to examine history as an artifact. For a time it might hold our interest, but eventually we place it in its glass case and return to the present. The Festival, however, is not merely a static, historical fact. The Christian Festival is a direly needed remedy for contemporary man.
Humans were created to experience joyful union with their creator, for joy is an essential part of the human experience. We do not, however, find joy in the world today. In the place of gladness, we find despair. The joy created for abundance, is now foreign to mankind.
Since the Enlightenment (c. 18th century), philosophy has undergone a major shift. As the sciences expanded and mankind learned more about how the Universe works, questions were answered. With less and less mystery in the human mind, philosophy became rationalistic. As man reasoned through the questions of the Universe, there was no need for Divine Revelation any longer, for man had the answers and no longer needed the answers of the Bible. Eventually, philosophy concluded that man is a machine. When the machine dies, nothing happens, thus life is a meaningless string of events leading to death. Purposeless man is then filled with despair.
Louis-Ferdinand Céline, a French novelist/essayist, described the despairing situation of Modern man this way:
“Not much music left inside us for life to dance to. Our youth has gone to the ends of the earth to die in the silence of the truth. And where, I ask you, can a man escape to, when he hasn’t enough madness left inside him? The truth is an endless death agony. The truth is death. You have to choose: death or lies. I’ve never been able to kill myself.” (Journey to the End of the Night. 1932).
Humans, created to experience joy, are currently filled with great despair. This is why the Christian Festival is desperately needed today. Despairing man is thirsty for joy. Our preaching and our teaching have their place, but Modern man has heard our sermons and lessons, and they are tired. They don’t believe Jesus is the Son of God and they don’t believe the Bible is true.
When they see us rejoice, however, they will listen. They will visit the Christian Festival with wonder because they cannot understand how hearts can be glad. They will listen to our Christian Song because they themselves are so miserable and unhappy. All of their reason cannot explain away our joy. Psalm 22:3 says, “Yet you are holy, dwelling in the praises of Israel.” God inhabits the praises of His people. We show God to a godless world with our praise. We show God by our Festival. So celebrate heartily, O Christian, for it may be the means of salvation to a world in despair.