Yearly Rhythms: Celebration Planning.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-4, “There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven— 2 A time to give birth and a time to die; a time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted. 3 A time to kill and a time to heal; a time to tear down and a time to build up. 4 A time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance.”

Ecclesiastes 3 is considered a part of wisdom literature. Ecclesiastes is written by Solomon, who is one of the wisest people in the world, because in 1 Kings, in the Old Testament, Solomon was approached by the God of Scripture to make any request and it would be granted. Can you imagine?

Solomon could have asked for money to get helicopters, vacation homes, and have Stevie Wonder sing him a lullaby. Solomon could have asked for the intelligence of Doogie Howzer, and rock out Jeopardy every day! Solomon could have asked for all the power in the world, and do you know what Solomon asked for?

Solomon asks for wisdom, so that verses 1-8 (A time to kill, heal, tear down, build up, war, peace, love, hate) aren’t pretty words to make into a song like the Byrds did in 1965, “To everything (turn, turn, turn). There is a season (turn, turn, turn). No, Solomon didn’t mean for verses 1-8 to be pretty.

Solomon is making the observation that life is repetitive, and exhausting. There is a time to live, a time to die, a time to laugh a time to mourn, a time for war and a time for peace. The same old thing, “Another day, another dollar.”

Ecclesiastes 3:9-10, “9 What profit is there to the worker from that in which he toils? 10 I have seen the task which God has given the sons of men with which to occupy themselves.”

In verse 9 Solomon asks, “What’s the profit?” Solomon is asking, “What’s the point of life?” In verse 10, “People have tasks to occupy themselves” (Do you see that phrase in verse 10?) like going to work, mowing the yard, changing diapers, homework, making your bed, and every day you wake up, and do these same tasks over and over. What’s the point?

Yes, at first those tasks are exciting like learning a new skill (painting, gardening, wood-working, finances, mechanics, new show on Disney+, but eventually we do those tasks at 30, 60, 100, 500, 1000 times, and eventually the newness starts to wear off, and human beings start to ask, “What’s the point?”

Some of us start asking that question at 13. We get very cynical and emo about life, some of us take a little longer, but at some point we all start asking the question, “What’s the profit?”  That’s why we need to celebrate!

In my life practically, we plan out vacations 3-5 years in advance, so we talk about them, save for them, build anticipation about them.

  • We plan out birthdays in January every year, because otherwise those birthdays seem to sneak up on us, and become more stressful. They are coming. Get ready!
  • We look ahead for any key events / milestones that might be coming up that year in our lives, or our children (Sleeping through the night, potty training, new dog, starting something, finishing something, years of marriage, financial goals, career goals, not getting into a car accident, paying off debt.) Celebrate!
  • We celebrate the friendships we have in our lives, and it’s a priority to go to their parties and celebrations, because we want to give our time and energy to friendships.
  • In my job I set aside time to celebrate God’s goodness. On Monday’s Keith and I go over as many great things we can identify on Sunday morning (new visitors, key volunteers, physical healing, resolved conflict, leadership development, praying for people, teens inviting other teens to Youth Village.)
  • We celebrate holidays like Good Friday we take our family to a cemetery to have lunch, and we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. On Martin Luther King Day we take our family to a cross-cultural experience to remind us of God’s goodness in diversity. On July 4th we blow things up.
  • Before a meal at a restaurant I celebrate in our prayers to remember the men and women got there hours before, so that I can just point to food, and eat!

Please don’t think I am one of those optimistic, cheery people, with rose tinted glasses that just do this naturally. This is a spiritual discipline in my life, and I can tell you this truth makes a difference in my life.

Ecclesiastes 3:14-15, “14 I know that everything God does will remain forever; there is nothing to add to it and there is nothing to take from it, for God has so worked that men should fear Him. 15 That which is has been already and that which will be has already been, for God seeks what has passed by.”

The end of verse 15 is a little hard to understand, but in another translation it says:

“That which has been already and that which will be has already been, for God makes the same things happen over and over again.”

It is possible we could read through Ecclesiastes 3 and think, “Why didn’t the God of Scripture just make everything easier?” He did. It’s called Genesis 1 and 2, but we rejected it, and in God’s wisdom He embedded this “Longing to Improve, Never Satisfied” in humanity as a means of grace to draw us back to Himself.

The God of Scripture has designed the repetitive, exhausting parts of life as a means of grace to draw us to Himself.

It actually reminds me of what life is like for a child. As a parent, we create scenarios for our children to stretch them, and help them grow. We go from lying down, to crawling, to walking, to running, to riding a bike, and each stage is to stretch them, help them grown, and when they become overwhelmed, a good parent is there to catch them.

It is similar in our relationship with God, so that throughout life the God of Scripture is leading us into scenarios where we are stretched, and when we become overwhelmed it opens our eyes to see our need for Him, and the God of Scripture is there to catch us. It’s a means of His grace in our life. This is why Jesus is so important. It is in Jesus that the God of Scripture has come near to catch us.

Do you remember the movie Batman Begins? There’s a scene when Bruce when is a child, he falls into the well, and his father goes into well to get him, picks him up, carries him home, and Alfred shows compassion and says, “Took quite a fall Master Bruce.”

And the father interjects, “And why do we fall, Bruce? We fall so that we can learn to pick ourselves back up.” Listen to me, that is the prevailing philosophy of America, “We pick ourselves back up.”

But, the Scriptures teach us, “We fall, because we need to be reminded that Jesus has come to catch us.” Jesus doesn’t watch us fall from afar. Jesus doesn’t mock our challenges and pain. Jesus doesn’t even wait for us to ask for His help, but instead Jesus steps into the toil and frustration of our world, and not only steps into the toil and frustration, but puts the toil and frustration to death at the cross, and conquers the toil and frustration in the resurrection, so that we might celebrate now and for eternity.

Listen, it is possible you are reading this and thinking, “2019 didn’t unfold the way you anticipated.” It is likely that 2020 is going to have some hiccups as well. Our hope is not to perfect the frustrations of our world, but our hope is in the One who perfects all of eternity. That’s the ultimate reason we celebrate. His name is Jesus.