School was out for the summer, and both girls asked, “How are we going to celebrate?” I thought we had celebrated with a trip to the ice cream shop on the last day of school. But the girls were requesting another celebration. Digging through the pantry I found graham crackers, a chocolate bar left over from Valentine’s Day, and a bag of large marshmallows. S’mores! What is more celebratory than S’mores?
As Doug, the girls, and I sat around the fire, licking sticky marshmallow off our fingers, I looked at the happy faces and thought, “What a peaceful moment. The girls are smiling. Everybody is deliciously full. And we don’t have to get up and go anywhere. This is good.”
In Eternal Echoes, John O’Donohue expresses what I was feeling as my family lingered together after the S’mores. He writes, “The desire to celebrate is the longing to enter more deeply into the mystery of actuality.” To celebrate is to spotlight what is good right now. Celebrations do not focus on the past or the future. When we celebrate we are not longing to go back to a different time or jump ahead to what comes next. Celebrations joyously embrace the now and honor the goodness of the moment.
Audrey, my kindergartener, attended a school friend’s birthday party. After the children had played to exhaustion, they all gathered around the birthday girl and sang, “Happy Birthday.” The birthday girl grinned in delight and then blew out the candles on the cake while all her friends cheered. The clapping for a friend turning six years old was the perfect moment because they were acknowledging how good it was to celebrate this milestone with this friend.
In church, we gather around the table and sing, but do we celebrate? Often communion is called “Celebrating the Eucharist,” but we tend to focus more on the sacrifice of Jesus’ life for the forgiveness of sins than the celebratory nature of coming to the table. As we receive the bread and cup, we can celebrate the goodness of this moment with these people in this particular place. No church is perfect, and we can name our frustrations with the shortcomings of our church. But when we gather around the table, we should pause for a moment to name something good and right with our church family. Coming to the table is a time of remembrance but it also a celebration of a meal among family.
When we celebrate, we honor the present. We don’t have to worry over how we could have done something differently a day or year before, and we don’t have to stress over decisions to be made tomorrow. We are in the now. There is redemptive power in recognizing the value of the now. When we relax into the goodness of this moment and refrain from trying to fix the past or anticipate the future, our souls can be at peace. As my summer continues, I plan to look for ways to celebrate the now and to relax into the peace of the moment.
Tammy Abee Blom is an ordained Baptist minister, regular contributor to BWIM’s blog, mother of two amazing daughters, teacher for children’s Sunday School, and lives in Columbia, South Carolina.