Celebration! Who likes a good party? [img party] I like a good party, though you are likely to find me sitting in a corner talking with one or two people instead of milling around with the crowds. People like celebrations, [img b’day] we celebrate birthdays with good meals, presents and music; we celebrate [img flower gift] anniversaries with flowers and gifts; we celebrate births with cards and pictures. As people, we are made to celebrate. It gives us a sense of wonder, expectation and joy.
And the Christian life should be no different. In fact, of all the people in the world, we believers in Jesus have the most to marvel at; we have the most to rejoice in; we have the greatest anticipation of any who live. As Christians we celebrate Jesus [img crown] and his enthronement in heaven. You see, today is Ascension Sunday, the day in the church year when we celebrate Jesus’ return to heaven and his crowning with glory and honor. The Word of God urges us to “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”(Hebrews 12:2).
We celebrate a Jesus who was “You made him a little lower than the angels; you crowned him with glory and honor” (Hebrews 2:7). Jesus is the supreme one, the firstborn from among the dead, the ruler of the cosmos. He is the righteous branch, our brother, the redeemer of mankind and the restorer of lost souls. [img shepherd] Jesus is the good shepherd, the seeker of lost treasure, the healer, friend and brother, made like us but without sin. We celebrate Jesus. As Christians, we celebrate Jesus and the joy he brings. Is there any doubt in anyone’s mind, who the believer celebrates?
–We celebrate because Jesus is Alive, because death has been conquered, because sin is forgiven, life is restored and the Lamb of God sits on the throne. The passage we heard out of Rev 22 this morning touches on many of these reasons. We celebrate because a [img cross crown] victory has been won.
After discussing many hardships, battles, near losses for the church and the people of God in this world, Revelation 21-22 tell of the final victory and celebration that is to occur for all God’s people. In the passage this victory and celebration is pictured in a few images. First, it is a river [img Colorado river]. God’s people are told that one of the reasons they will celebrate is because there is a River, a pure river, without any pollution, impurities or foreign particles present and it is available to all within the kingdom.
I don’t know about you, but I love “spring water” It is cold, refreshing, crystal clear and it tastes unlike anything from your tap or bottle. There was one of these springs in Colorado where I used to live, high in the mountains and my wife and I would occasionally drive up to it and fill up a bottle or two, right where the spring bubbled out of the ground over 10000 feet elevation. It was wonderful, but the author of Revelation tells us we are going to celebrate because this Heavenly River flows right out of the Throne of God and everything it touches is nourished and exceedingly fruitful. It causes trees to bear fruit [img fruit tree] every month, and not just of the same kind of fruit, but of twelve different fruits [click for animation]. We miss it in the English, but the Greek is pretty clear, this water causes God’s trees to do amazing, unheard of things. Who sees a tree bear apples, then oranges, then cherries, followed by almonds, kiwi’s, bananas, etc…It is impossible, but not with God, all things are possible. More than possible, the impossible, becomes the hallmark of the Kingdom – sinners are turned righteous, blind men are healed, death is defeated, love defeats hatred, all of this is pictured in the flowing River of God and so we celebrate because the river is among humanity.
But we can also celebrate because Revelation pictures the [img demolition] destruction of the curse. Literally the passage tells us that the curse of war, specifically its ravages and destruction will no longer exist in the redeemed city of God. Figuratively, we know this means that death and sin are destroyed and no longer have their dirty little fists upon our lives.
And the third reason we can continue celebrating is because the Goal of Salvation is ultimately realized for all those who are found in Christ. The text says the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city (Rev 22:3). God will be with his people and this is pictured in a people who have face to face access to God, something never experienced before in the Scriptures. Sure people talk with God, Moses even got to look upon God’s back, but no one had ever seen God face to face in all his glory, but now they will. This is a promise. This is the celebration.
Not only that but all who see God will be marked as God’s possession with his name. We aren’t told exactly what that name is right here, but in another place in the Scriptures, describing the attire of the High Priest, we are told he will wear a golden plate upon his forehead with these words, Holy to the Lord (Exo 28:36-38). What a thing to celebrate if those words, Holy to the Lord, are engraved upon our forehead. Even if its not those and others equally exalting are scribed into our life won’t that be reason to celebrate – to be called gracious, pure, righteous, just, lover or any other name is worth celebrating because it is God’s declaration over you. —
So let’s move onto the second part of our sermon today: Namely, who can celebrate this Jesus? In the book of Revelation, we are told many times that the ones who truly celebrate are those who have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb and been made white (Rev 7:14). There are countless people in Revelation who mourn. Sinners mourn because they were allied with Babylon and have watched her fall and demise. Those who practice evil, “But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars also mourn, for — their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death” (Revelation 21:8). But those who are repentant, who love Jesus and worship at his throne are always pictured as those engaged in a great celebration, whether it is the picture of the [img banquet] heavenly banquet in Matthew, or the worshiping party in Revelation 7, it is those who confess their sin, embrace Jesus Christ and love him who are at the party. So do you love Jesus? I didn’t hear you. Kids, did that sound like they loved Jesus? Can you be louder than your parents? [img jesus in heart] Do you love Jesus?
So we know that Jesus is the object of our celebration and those who love him are invited to the party. So let me ask you what kind of things happen in the party where Jesus is celebrated? First, every party has music. So in the party celebrating Jesus, there is good gospel music, and lots of it, and it is loud and everyone is participating in it. Revelation tells us the great party is full of living creatures and 24 elders who cry out in song Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come (Rev 4:8). There are songs being sung by angels, myriads of them recounting the story of redemption: worthy is the Lamb, who was slain to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise (Rev 5:12). And every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea and all that is in them, sing: To him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be praise and honor and glory and power for ever and ever (Rev 5:13).
So Jesus is celebrated in the music that is sung. Our lyrics and words in worship are part of our celebration. But Jesus is also celebrated in the way we [img reading] read and interpret the Scriptures. If you read through any New Testament book, it is hard to miss the object to which they all point – Jesus. Unfortunately, there are many sermons and teachings that don’t follow the bible’s cue on interpretation. This book is not primarily about you and me, or even about how we should behave and what we should do and refrain from doing. It is a book about Jesus Christ from beginning to end. [img AW] Jesus is the alpha and omega, the beginning and the end. As Jesus himself said in (John 5:39) You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me. The writer of Hebrews does an amazing job with this in chapter 1 by walking us through the psalms and showing us how these words were about Jesus. He walks us through the temple texts and elaborates them in relation to Jesus’ ministry. He points to the historical stories of Moses and shows us how Jesus was greater than Moses. The gospel writers do the same thing. There we find that Jesus is the gate to god, the manna in the desert, the Passover sacrifice, the light of the world, the prophet like Moses…Each of these texts is showing us that Jesus is to be celebrated in the entirety of Scripture. So celebrate him in the Old and the New. Read your bible with an eye to Jesus and teach others how he shows up in the stories from the past.
In the way we live, Jesus can also be celebrated. (Matt. 5:16) In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. Is your life lived in such a way that people see you having a great time? Is joy exuding from you? Can people tell that there is [img Jesus in heart] love in your heart? Do they see the smile of God beaming from your face. Do you want to celebrate Jesus? Then laugh heartily, smile frequently; lend a helping hand, serving others cheerfully. Celebrate Jesus in what you do for the people in your family, those in your office and the ones you encounter in the street, not because you have to do these things but because Jesus is the center of your life and it is just fun to celebrate the Lord in the way you live life.
We can also celebrate Jesus in our prayers and conversations? When people are at a party, often you will hear them talking about the event of the day, or the host who is being honored. How often do you talk about Jesus in your life? Who are you telling about the Jesus you love? What things is he doing that you want others to know. [img book cover] David Bryant, in his book Christ is All, writes about his experience over four Sundays in the foyer following the service. He noted that after the service for four weeks in a row as he walked around and evesdropped, that he never hear the name of Jesus referenced once. He goes on to write, “Do the Christians in your church ever spend time talking to one another about the supremacy of God’s Son? Do they speak in way that indicate a desire to deposit with one another larger visions of who He is and how he reigns? Do the Christians you know seek to promote among themselves greater hope in Christ and his kingdom?” (pg. 7)
Our words and our prayers are one of the most profound ways we can celebrate Jesus. In heaven, he will be the center of all conversation and attention, why not practice now, in this life. That is why the prayer meetings we hold each month always spend a significant amount of time declaring to God who he is and what he has done. We celebrate him and [img dog adoring] adore him as a dog adores his master. It is Jesus our words should celebrate. Paul understood that, everywhere he went and to everyone he spoke, or wrote, or prayed, he They arranged to meet Paul on a certain day, and came in even larger numbers to the place where he was staying. From morning till evening he explained and declared to them the kingdom of God and tried to convince them about Jesus from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets. (Acts 28:23)
And we can celebrate Jesus with our pocket books by giving generously to further the spread of the gospel. (2Cor. 8:2) Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. (2Cor. 9:12) This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of God’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. Today we are gathering faith promise pledges for the next three months. Are you willing to celebrate the Lord by allowing him to funnel money through you towards the Cunningham Shop Project? Maybe we also celebrate Jesus by declaring his wonder to others through our testimony. We are giving every family in the church one copy of [img book cover] Tortured for His Faith by Haralan Popov as a way of reading and celebrating the faithfulness of God to his people. I hope you enjoy it.
So family of God, let’s celebrate. Lets celebrate Jesus because of who he is and what he has done. He died on the cross, rose from the dead and returned to heaven where He sits on the throne and rules all creation. Let’s celebrate with our lives, with our conversations, with our money and with our worship. But more than that, lets celebrate by allowing God to work through us to spread the message of the gospel among the nations.
For our time of response today, we are not going to sing our normal song, instead, I want to ask you to concretely reflect on what God is asking you to do to help extend his Kingdom and celebrate his Son. To aid that process, Melissa put together a half sheet that you have in your bulletin.
Take time to list benefits, gifts, goodness from God in your life. This could include people, abilities, protection, provision, material things, and more.
Ask God to open the eyes of your heart to reveal his active movement in your life. Take time to absorb the wonder of his ways. Celebrate those God-Sightings by joyfully sharing them with one or more people.
Think about the goodness of God as reflected in your list above. Do something physical, musical, or art-ful as a way to outwardly acknowledge God’s goodness to us! Expressive joy is contagious!
Creative celebration activity ideas: Circle something you want to do this week.
Dance, cheer, hoot, holler Paint
Make special food Laugh
Leap for joy Plant something
Give thanks to God for his blessings Craft something
Sing or play music Behold Beauty
Write a story/ poem Draw
Throw a party Other _______________
God, please help me remember your good gifts often, even in the midst of difficulties. And help me experience you in the midst of my daily life. Fill me with joy and gratitude because of who you are and the hope we have in you. Challenge my heart to celebrate by allowing You to work through me to spread the message of the gospel around me.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.
- We celebrate Jesus (Heb 12:2, 2:7)
- Who can celebrate?
- Repentant (Rev 7:14, 21:8)
- Why do we celebrate?
i. Jesus is alive
ii. Death is conquered
iii. Sin is forgiven
iv. Life is restored
- Rev 22:1-5 continues this theme of celebration
i. River of Life
ii. No Curse
iii. Goal of salvation realized (Rev 22:3)
- How do we Celebrate Jesus
- Music (Rev 4:8, 5:12-13)
- Scriptures (John 5:39)
- Even in the way we live (Matt 5:16)
- Prayers & Conversations (Acts 28:23)
- Missions giving (2Cor 8:2, 9:12)
- Go out and Celebrate, faith promise plea.