Chuck Swindoll, my first pastor as an adult, liked to use the word “hilarity” or “hilarious.” It fit. I never knew a pastor could have so much fun preaching. But as I recall, he used the word more in connection with things like giving and worship.
I remember one sermon in particular which he preached about David bringing the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem. As the procession moved forward, David stripped off his outer garment and was leaping and dancing before the ark. He was worshiping with hilarity.
Another sermon along these lines which I remember was from Nehemiah. The people gathered to hear the reading of God’s word, but when they did they started weeping—their sins and the sins of their nation down through the years weighed on their hearts. Nehemiah told them to stop mourning, though. “This day is holy to the Lord your God,” he said. Then he added,
“Go, eat of the fat, drink of the sweet, and send portions to him who has nothing prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.”
So the Levites calmed all the people, saying, “Be still, for the day is holy; do not be grieved.”
All the people went away to eat, to drink, to send portions and to celebrate a great festival, because they understood the words which had been made known to them. (Nehemiah 8:9b, 10b-12)
Their mourning turned into feasting and hilarious celebration. They ate, they drank, they gave to others, and they celebrated.
Sound like anything we might also experience, oh, say every December 25? We undoubtedly have the eating and drinking and giving parts down pat, though our giving is more often than not to those who also give to us. We aren’t perhaps quite as proficient at giving to those who have “nothing prepared.” But I also wonder if we have the motive behind the celebrating sorted out.
The people Nehemiah led were taking part in a holy day, set apart to the Lord. Christmas, as some have pointed out, is a tangled holiday—part with religious underpinnings and part with secular, though even these have godly men (St. Nicholas) and/or godly purposes at the heart of their traditions. Still, might we not experience more of the hilarious joy of celebration if we saw the day as holy to the Lord?
Too often, I think Christians equate worship with quiet reverence, not hilarious celebration. But what did the Psalmist mean when he said, “Make a joyful noise to the Lord”?
The snatches of heaven we glimpse in the books of prophecy seem anything but solemn and sedate. For instance, the four living creatures shout, “Holy, Holy Holy is the Lord God the Almighty, who was and who is and who is to come.” (Rev. 4:8b) Further, crowds surround God’s throne, and they’re giving God praise too.
After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; and they cry out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures; and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, “Amen, blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might, be to our God forever and ever. Amen.” (Rev. 7:9-12)
When I read that passage, I don’t get the impression that there was a leader saying, OK, time to fall on our faces before the throne. Rather, it seems as if this is a spontaneous reaction to seeing God.
So maybe that’s the key. Maybe we need to spend some of our day looking at God.
I know, I know. He’s a Spirit and we can’t really see Him. I’m not saying we need to dig out some icon or a picture in a Bible or something. Horrors! No!
We “see” God by reading what He’s said about Himself and then thinking about it deeply. The more familiar the passage, the more we need to think about it, to let questions come to our mind and to dig into Scripture to see if we can’t answer those questions.
Then after we see God, let the hilarity begin!