What’s a Preparation? What’s the difference between and Observation and a Celebration? What’s an Anticipation? Join AMBrewster has he unveils the four main types of events in the Celebration of God.
The Year Long Celebration of God is a family resource from Truth.Love.Parent., a ministry dedicated to rooting families in God and maturing families for God so they can harvest blessings from God.
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Welcome to Episode 8 of The Celebration of God. Today we dive even deeper into the framework of the festivities, and I look forward to sharing some practical ways to apply today’s topic to discipleship.
I desperately long for this material to be practical and relevant. I want you to be able to walk away from The Celebration of God podcast ready to do something. At the same time, any time we’re talking about philosophy and systems, it can seem difficult to put it to use in our lives.
But this is not just an eternally applicable show, we’re discussing the very fibers of everyday life. This must be practical, or it’s a farce.
If we’re really talking about the fact that the better we know and love God the more we’ll celebrate Him throughout our days and weeks and months and years, then that means that what we learn about God today should be able to change us.
As always, if you’re occupied with chores or you can’t type anything down because you’re on a walk, we have free episode notes available at CelebrationOfGod.com.
Today we’re going to talk about the four different pieces of celebration.
Within the structure of this discipleship program we’ve created four major timeframes. These timeframes have application to our Holidays as well as our personal holiness. The two center pieces will seem very familiar, but the first and last elements may be a little foreign to us.
So, let’s begin.
The first stage of celebration begins with what the Bible calls “Preparation.”
1. Preparation readies our minds, our schedules, and our homes to celebrate God.
If you’re familiar at all with the historical account of the Passion Week then you know that Jesus was crucified on the preparation of the Passover. In John 19:14 we read, “Now it was the day of preparation for the Passover; it was about the sixth hour. And [Pilate] *said to the Jews, “Behold, your King!”
We’re not going to discuss the Passover details now, but we do need to understand why the Jews had this day of preparation before the Passover and the Sabbath and other Holy Days on their calendar.
Suffice it to say, God had very precise expectations for the Jews on their religious holidays. One of those prerequisites was that they weren’t allowed to do work that was above and beyond what was required for basic life support.
According to Ari Goldman, a former New York Times reporter and author of “Being Jewish,” “By traditional Jewish law, one cannot shop on the Sabbath, so marketing is usually done during the day on Friday. Cooking is prohibited on the Sabbath, so that must be done in advance, too. Foods prepared beforehand can be kept warm on a hot plate or on the stove, a condition that has led to a preference for certain hearty dishes like a meat-bean-and-potato stew . . . In our home, we try to give our children special Sabbath eve responsibilities. Of course, there’s cleaning up their own rooms, but we also divide up family responsibilities like sweeping, or setting up the Sabbath candles.”
The Jews were and are careful to do on Preparation everything they might be tempted to do on Sabbath but shouldn’t.
Now, the Preparation for Celebration of God events is not because there are things we’re not allowed to do on a certain Holiday. However, do you really want to spend all of Christmas Day decorating? Of course not. In order to have an enjoyable feast, you have to do some cooking, and you don’t usually bake the cake during the party.
That’s the heart behind our Preparation Days.
We live in an overly-busy world. We move at an unhealthy, frenetic pace, and unless we purpose to plan, we find ourselves skimping by on last-minute ingenuity and luck.
But is that how we want to approach our celebration of God? Is flying by the seat of our pants and squeezing in by the skin of our teeth really the heart posture God desires?
I don’t think so.
Consider I Corinthian’s 11:33-34, Paul gives us some practical ways to prepare for the Lord’s Supper. “So then, my brethren, when you come together to eat, wait for one another. 34 If anyone is hungry, let him eat at home, so that you will not come together for judgment.”
The Lord’s Supper wasn’t designed to be an all you can eat buffet or a kegger. In order to please the Lord — which was the whole point of the celebration — the church was encouraged to eat a meal at home so they didn’t come so famished they’d be tempted to selfishly gorge themselves.
This is why Preparation Days have been worked into our schedule. We want to prepare our minds, schedules, and homes so that when it’s time to celebrate, we can give ourselves wholly to it.
My mind is going to Luke 10:38-42, “Now as they were traveling along, [Jesus] entered a village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord’s feet, listening to His word. 40 But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him and said, ‘Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.’ 41 But the Lord answered and said to her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; 42 but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.’”
When it comes time to do the right thing, we don’t want to be distracted getting ready to do the right thing.
The Bible has much to say about being prepared. Matthew 24 and 25 is all about being ready for the return of Christ. In chapter 25 Jesus tells of 10 ladies who were waiting for the wedding party. The part arrived very late, so when they awoke, they immediately needed to trim and relight their lamps. Five of the girls had prepared and had enough oil, but the other fiver were not ready. The parable of the talents follows this one and talks about three servants. Two of them worked hard and were ready for the master’s return, but the third servant was found unprepared.
So what kinds of things should we do during our Preparation Days? Well, we’re going to cover this in specific detail as we walk through The Year Long Celebration of God. There’s no need to worry, we won’t leave you in suspense concerning what will need to be done for each of our days of celebration.
For now though, let me share some basic categories. Whether you’re preparing this celebration for yourself, your family and friends, or even for your whole church, you will want to give careful thought to three things. I’ll present them in order of least important to most important:
A. Prepare the space. Whether it’s your dining room, family altar, yard, conference room, or sanctuary, you’re likely going to want certain decorations. You may also want or need certain items you hope to use during the celebration. There’s likely going to need to be food prep of some sort. These are the normal things people consider when preparing for a holiday.
B. Prepare your schedule. I know, some of you love plans and flow charts and schedules, and others of you cringe at the very idea, but we must admit that our most successful moments were the result of some kind of planning. It’s also fair to observe that we plan the things that are most important to us.
I used to work at a home for at-risk teens, and it never ceased to amaze me the disdain teenage boys had for planning ahead for their schoolwork. But those same teenage boys would put hours and hours of planning and careful thought into the silliest endeavors. Some of them were planning their music career. Others would write lists and lists of plans for their group of friends. Some would dedicate hours to decorating their binders or artfully creating their favorite spaces. But planning time to write a paper . . . that’s ridiculous.
I’m not suggesting that you need to micromanage your vacations, but you do need to make sure you know what you have to do and what you want to do and that you’re actually able to get it all done.
And C. Prepare your heart. Preparing your heart — by the way, heart and mind are nearly interchangeable from a biblical perspective — preparing your heart is the most important thing any individual or family or congregation can do.
How many times do we walk into a Sunday service distracted by everything that happened trying to get the family to church or everything you’re going to face when you walk into work on Monday that you barely even register what’s going on in the service.
How do you avoid that? You need to prepare.
So, the next question is how much time do you need to prepare? Well, that will depend on many things, and — to be honest — you have a ton of freedom on this point. What some people may dedicate a week to accomplish, other’s may take an hour to do.
I’m not going to say one way or another how much time you need, but we are going to give you some suggestions about the kinds of things you might want to prepare.
There’s almost nothing more enjoyable than walking into a special event knowing that everything is exactly as it should be and you are free to enjoy yourself.
We’ll explore it in more detail in the future, but Preparation is just as valuable in our personal holiness as it is in our corporate holidays. Prayer, Bible study, counsel, wise planning, and accountability are just some of the ways we can prepare to celebrate God by overcoming temptation and obeying Him.
Okay, so the first stage is Preparation. The second piece is Observation.
2. Observation is for events that are not joyous, but must not be forgotten.
How many people do you know that actually celebrate President’s Day? Yeah, I didn’t think so.
That’s why people are careful to use phrases like this, “We’ll be observing Presidents Day on Monday.”
Within the Celebration of God, Observances are extremely important because — though we wouldn’t celebrate what we’re observing — it’s important enough that we don’t forget it.
Let me give you what I think is the perfect example. I think it’s appropriate to celebrate what the Crucifixion accomplished for us, but it’s actually quite difficult to celebrate the process of crucifixion as we visualize it happening to our Lord.
Now, again, some people would quickly say that the Crucifixion is something to be celebrated, but according to I Corinthians 15, if it weren’t for the Resurrection, the Crucifixion wouldn’t have meant anything and our faith would be in vain.
But that doesn’t mean that it’s not important to consider the pain and agony of the Crucifixion. In the vernacular of The Celebration of God, this would be considered a Solemnity.
It’s a solemn reminder. It’s desperately important to remember, there are powerful lessons to be learned, but we wouldn’t exactly say that we’re celebrating it.
Within The Celebration of God calendar, we will observe three solemnities; one in autumn, one in winter, and one in spring. The Crucifixion is the solemnity for Spring. But there is no solemnity for Summer . . . and I can’t wait to tell you why . . . later. :-)
The point is, there are many important events that should never be forgotten. To forget them would be to allow ourselves to be deceived about the human condition, divine consequences, and the like. t’s kind of like the Holocaust. People who forget history are doomed to repeat it. We don’t remember the Holocaust because it’s something joyous; we remember it so that — Lord willing — we don’t repeat it.
By the way, just so there’s no misunderstanding, there is not Holocaust observation within the Celebration of God. That’s not to say that you and your community shouldn’t memorialize it. My family and I do, but we’ll talk more later about celebrations and memorials that it may be valuable for you to observe, but won’t be included within the official Celebration of God calendar.
But, that’s the beauty of the freedom you have as well.
In the same way that Observation can be done individually as well as corporately, when I am careful to take note of the ways in which I am tempted to turn my eyes off God like Peter walking on the Sea of Galilee took His eyes off Christ . . . I will be more careful to avoid that temptation in the future. Proverbs 22:3 says, “The prudent see the evil and hides himself, but the naive go on, and are punished for it.” We need to be good observers.
Okay, so we have the Preparation and the Observation.
3. Celebration gives full vent to our joy and rejoicing.
I won’t spend much time on this because this is the concept we all understand the most.
And, just like the previous two, we must celebrate God’s will for our moment-by-moment obedience with the same fervor we celebrate His incarnation.
And 4. Anticipation causes our hearts to yearn for future promises.
The final piece of celebration is what we call the Anticipation. In the same way that each holiday has a Preparation, so each has an Anticipation.
Anyone who’s ever been a child understands the painful anticipation of Christmas break, and the additional angst of waiting for Christmas morning.
Anticipation is a good thing as long as it’s rooted in a love for God and not merely an impatient desire to please myself.
One of the beauties of The Year Long Celebration of God is that the major holidays are no longer viewed as individual events. They’re all part of a majestic tapestry of praise and adoration for our Lord and King.
We love Christmas not just because of the incarnation, but because we’re now anticipating His perfect life, death, and resurrection for our sins. We don’t only celebrate the Resurrection that saved us of our sin, we anticipate the day we will no longer have any sin.
But it’s not just the next holiday for which we’ll anticipate. As we mature and grow in our love for God, we will start anticipating our daily sacrifice for Christ. We’ll start looking forward to serving Him and His people, denying the flesh, and spending yet another day fulfilling the will of God in our lives instead of worshipping at the puny altar of self.
So, those are the four stages, the four pieces of celebration. We prepare, we observe, we celebrate, and we anticipate.
Now, before we finish up, I want to get practical. How will these four pieces help us disciple our spouses, friends, fellow church members, and children?
One of the most overlooked facets of biblical discipleship is the life-on-life aspect. Discipleship is not a program. It’s not a booklet, class, or small group curriculum. Discipleship is a lifestyle that works best when the disciple and the discipler spend time together following Christ.
My time at Victory Academy for Boys was so amazing because there is no modern relationship more like biblical discipleship than the parent/child relationship. I loved that the boys we served lived in our home with my family. We lived day in and day out as family. That was discipleship pure and simple.
The parent/child relationship has the greatest potential of mirroring the best discipleship relationship.
But how do so many families handle major holidays? We don’t want the kids decorating because they’re too young or too immature or they won’t do it the right way or they’ll get in the way. So mom Pinterests the house and Instagrams the food, everything is said and done, the kids wake up, fill themselves up with the festivities, whine when they have to clean up, so mom and dad send them to bed.
But what if I invite my child to walk side by side with me through the process? If I as a parent want to help my child know God better, involving them in the Preparation time becomes extremely important. That’s the time we’re preparing our hearts, talking about the significance of the upcoming festivities, and working together to make sure we all can pour ourselves fully into celebrating God.
So, obviously, walking with the young man I’m discipling through the Observation or the Celebration becomes desperately important. Why would I not invite him over for Christmas? We talk all the time about how important God is, but when we come to one of our greatest Holidays of the year, we isolate ourselves?
What about inviting our fellow church members into the Anticipation — talking together about what’s to come, the significance and the joy, the potential obstacles and the power of God to overcome them?
The Celebration of God is a beautiful discipleship tool not because it provides a curriculum to follow, but because it provides you amazing opportunities for life-on-life . . . life. Intentional, premeditated disciple-making as you do what Deuteronomy 6 describes: “These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”
That is discipleship 101, and The Celebration of God facilitates that by giving you year by year, season by season, month by month, week by week, and day by day opportunities to sit down with the ones you love and actually lead them in what it looks like to know and love God.
And, if you’re in a time of life we’re no one is discipling you and you’re not in that kind of relationship with anyone else, The Celebration of God is a wonderful way for you personally to deepen your knowledge and love for God as you learn to celebrate Him in everything you do.
I hope you’re excited to start preparing and observing and celebrating and anticipating. In fact, if you’re anything like I am, you’re already anticipating the excitement of anticipating.
So, guess what?
That’s right, we’re already solidly in the Preparation phase and the Anticipation phase. We’re not just preparing for and looking forward to an individual holiday; each of these introductory episodes has been about anticipating and preparing for the entire Celebration of God.
We need to get our hearts right and our heads on straight as we come into September. We need to be ready to jump into our first official Preparation, and I’m looking forward to that so much.
So, as you anticipate entering into a beautiful time of personal, family, and church discipleship opportunities, I invite you to do two things:
1. Spend time praying. Ask God to prepare your heart to live in the reality of His awesomeness. And as you study your Bible, look for celebratory themes. Let them get you excited too.
And 2. Share the The Celebration of God podcast with your friends, family, and church family. Share it with everyone you know who loves God or who is curious to learn more about Him. The only way we can grow in our love for our communities is to do community life together. What better place is there to start than in an all-out celebration of God?!
And join us next time as we talk about the varying degrees to which you can enjoy The Celebration of God. There will be plans for those of you who only want to dip in a toe and a calendar for you who want to dive right in. On our next show we’ll talk about what the Basic, Intermediate, and Advanced Celebration of God looks like.
The Year Long Celebration of God is a dynamic, holistic resource that utilizes the Bible, our holiday calendars, and even the most average moments of the most normal days to equip Christians to worship God all year long
and disciple others to do the same.
AMBrewster is the creator and host of the Celebration of God. He originally designed the COG to be a discipleship tool for Christian parents to train their children to know and love God, but he quickly realized how valuable it is for all Christians. Whether it's a small group, church, classroom, one-on-one, or community relationship, this resource is guaranteed to draw people closer together as they draw closer to God.
Aaron is the President of Truth.Love.Parent. and host of its podcast.