A Very Good Party1
Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength … Then all the people went away to eat and drink, to send portions of food and to celebrate with great joy …
- from Nehemiah 8:10, 12
Imagine this scene.
Ezra the Priest stands above the crowd reading the Law. Hundreds of people listen in silence. The wind whistles through the Water Gate. From one corner of the crowd, quiet weeping begins, then spreads, becoming louder as the crowd begins to mourn the ways the Law had been broken. Eventually, the weeping of the crowd drowns out the reading of the Law.
Then Nehemiah the Governor joins Ezra and calls out in a loud voice, together with Ezra, encouraging the crowd to pause their mourning because this is a holy day. He puts the brakes on the mourning and calls for an altogether different, some of us might say opposite, response. They need to party.
Nehemiah gives direction for what they should do. Step one: Go. Step two: Enjoy choice food and sweet drinks. Step three: Send food to those who have nothing prepared.
And the people do it. The weeping stops and is replaced with shuffling feet. Maybe laughter begins to pepper the air. The crowd disperses to homes not in a somber retreat but for a joy-filled feast. And all over the area small pockets of celebration break out.
Children join parents carrying platters of food and jugs of wine to the homes of neighbors who have need. No one is left out. The contagious joy spreads through the city and into the countryside like a wave. Pots and pans become musical instruments and everyone from grandparents to toddlers join in a joyful dance (we can imagine, right?)
As day turns to night lanterns illuminate smiling, happy, feasting faces. Tired kids stay up past their bedtime as parents tell stories and laugh late into the night. This day is holy to the Lord.
And the Lord looks at all of this and repeats his oft-repeated, joyous refrain: “It is good. It is good. It is very, very good.”
When you think of a day that is “holy to the Lord,” do you picture a day full of feasting and celebration? Why or why not?