We sometimes think that celebration is a reward for accomplishment. It can be that, but it is much more. Celebration can also begin at the start of an unexpected challenge, one that makes you nervous and fearful. 

It’s the joyful song that Mary writes after the angel tells this young virgin that she is impregnated with the Son of God. We can learn much about the practice of celebration by listening to this young woman with a strange pregnancy.

Luke 1:
46 And Mary said:
“My soul glorifies the Lord
47     and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,
48 for he has been mindful
    of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
49     for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
    holy is his name.
50 His mercy extends to those who fear him,
    from generation to generation.
51 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
    he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones
    but has lifted up the humble.
53 He has filled the hungry with good things
    but has sent the rich away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
    remembering to be merciful
55 to Abraham and his descendants forever,
    just as he promised our ancestors.”

It starts with Mary’s thoughts and what she chooses to remember about God’s ways.

First, there is a focus on God’s love for her. What God is doing will prove to be an overwhelming challenge to her, but instead of feeling victimized in the circumstance, she rejoices because God loves her. He has chosen her for something so special that most people would miss its significance. Hers is a soul that magnifies the Lord (makes God bigger than the challenging circumstance).

Secondly, she realized that once again, God had chosen the humble to do something eternal. She remembers that from the stories she had heard of God’s ways. There were many Jewish women who would seem more noble and equipped for the task of raising a Messiah, but that was not to be God’s way.

Instead, God gave a priceless treasure to the poorest and a satisfying meal to one who was very hungry. When we celebrate God’s choosing of the humble and weak, we are joined to the generations of people that blessing flows through.

The writer to the Hebrews would tell us to look at Jesus as an example of joyfulness. He endured the cross by waiting for the joy that would follow.

Hebrews 12:
For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

So that is what Paul and Silas did. They looked at Jesus’ endurance and made a prison cell into a party room. That sounds so subversive doesn’t it? In the worst possible scenario, you look at Jesus and decide to sing. What do you do in your tough spots?