We are entering the last stretch of the Christmas holiday season, grasping for our final upcoming vacation day like an starvation victim going for the last sandwich on the table. This is a thrilling season of joy, fun, food, festivities, and busy “Returns only” checkout lines. We have one final outburst of excitement, New Years Eve/Day, a day notorious for parties.
So should we party too?
I know many people that would consider it a heresy to ask that question. They quickly divide into two radically different categories. The former, think it is a sin to even consider having a party, and would quickly shame you for even asking the question instead of fasting for three days. The latter would argue that even discussing what God wants for our lives is a colossal waste of time that we could use for partying. Obviously I belong to neither of these groups. (I was never holy enough for the first, never cool enough for the second; maybe that is why.)
The Bible has plenty to say about partying. To summarize there is “a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;” (Ecc 3:4). Laughing and dancing sounds like a party to me. Drunkenness, sexual activity outside marriage, and drugs are not awesome party activities, they are self-destructive, self-absorbed, self-mutilating health habits. A true party leaves you feeling happy after, not miserable, baked, hung over, and frantically calling the doctor to treat your new rash. A true party brings people together (community) and celebrates something truly awesome (commemoration), Jesus.
Below are 3 awesome parties in the Bible, perhaps we could learn to celebrate from them?
1. David’s cool spontaneous party
At one point in time, David runs and hides from Saul in a place called Ziklag (1 Chron 12:38-40) Yet as luck (God) would have it, people like David, so before you know it over 300k dudes with swords show up, and they have food. What is the first thing these guys do? They have a feast that lasts three whole days. On the menu: “fig cakes, raisin cakes, wine, olive oil, cattle and sheep” (1 Chron 12:40) or in today’s world “beer, barbeque, and candy.”
2. Best after-church feast ever
After returning from exile in Persia and the Jews assembled in Jerusalem to once again listen to the word of God. Ezra the scribe and priest read the Word and blessed the people. They wept, so good was the Word from God. Then Nehemiah told everyone to stop crying and celebrate the whole day. Everyone was to spend the day following the command to “Eat the fat and drink sweet wine.” (Neh 8:10). And those who didn’t have “anything ready” were given food and drink from their neighbors.
3. Hebrew Mega-thanksgiving party
Once a year the Hebrews were commanded to meet up in a place God chose for the ultimate mega-party celebration. God commanded his people to take a tithe (ten percent) of all their produce and make a party with it. For those that had to travel, God decreed they sell their stuff and once they travel to the area of the celebration then they were told by God to “spend the money for whatever you desire—oxen or sheep or wine or strong drink*, whatever your appetite craves” (Deut 14:26). This was to follow God’s command to “eat there before the Lord your God and rejoice. (*According to Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible the strong drink was likely a “liquor made of honey and of dates”)