In the twenty-first chapter of Genesis, we learn that on the day Isaac was weaned, Abraham held a great feast. He was so happy about this milestone that was reached in his son’s life that he decided to hold a great celebration.
In the Parable of the Lost Son, when the son returned, the father was so overjoyed that he decided to have a feast in order to celebrate this moment. “Bring the fattened calf.” he said, “Let’s have a feast and celebrate, for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.”
As I thought about these two celebrations, it dawned on me that, for the most part, our society has lost the art of getting together with others in order to celebrate the simple moments in life. People don’t really get together in order to rejoice and celebrate anymore except when it comes to what I call the “biggies,” such as birthdays, weddings, graduations, Baptism, First Holy Communion, and Confirmation.
But there are so many other occasions that can and should be celebrated in between!
Stop the Isolation
How many people do you know today who would do as Abraham did in his day, by having a celebration because a son was able to drink out of a cup for the first time? Would you think such an individual strange?
I am convinced – utterly convinced – that if we all got together more often in order to celebrate the simple occasions in life, we would be a happier people. Each generation seems to be growing more and more isolated than the generation that preceded it. American society is fast becoming an isolated society. People work all week long. When they come home, they eat, watch television, and then go to sleep. Much of their “free time” during the weekends is spent doing chores and running on errands that they don’t have time to tackle during the week. We are a very busy people, but many of us are very lonely as well because of this.
When people think of isolation, they think of an individual sitting in a cell somewhere who is completely cut off from all human contact. But isolation takes on many different forms. There is an isolation that comes to us even when we are walking on a street surrounded by thousands of people. I remember walking around in New York City when I was younger. I was surrounded by thousands of people everywhere. And yet, an eerie feeling of loneliness came over me. I never felt so lost and so completely unattached to humanity as I did that day walking the streets of New York City surrounded by thousands of people as far as the eye could see.
Impromptu All the Time!
When my family members came to the United States from Italy several generations ago, their lives were difficult, they were impoverished, and they were exposed to hideous working conditions. But they had something that we seem to have lost today. They had each other. They had community. If a woman had a baby, neighbors came out of the woodwork in order to help out the new mother. If someone died, neighbors and relatives brought meals to the bereaved family. Impromptu celebrations over the tiniest of events took place. If a man got a job, family and friends got together in a crowded, tiny apartment in order to drink wine, eat cake, and sing songs.
Anytime a little bit of good news was shared, people got together in order to celebrate, even if it was only over coffee and cake. They would spend the night sitting around crowded tables, talking, singing, and celebrating simple, yet momentous, occasions, and these people didn’t have two nickels to rub together! They didn’t feel the need to spend a fortune in order to put out “an impressive spread,” because truth be told, they just didn’t have it. They kept their impromptu celebrations sweet and simple. Their lives were hard, but any occasion to celebrate, no matter how big or small, was gladly welcomed and embraced.
If we can learn to imitate our ancient father Abraham, we will find a thousand reasons throughout the year in order to get together and celebrate with those whom we love and who matter in our lives.
- The employment of a friend who was out of work for a long time and ready to give up
- A spouse’s promotion at work
- A loved one’s successful rehabilitation after suffering an accident
- A child who finally learns his ABCs or how to read and write
- A child who no longer requires the use of a potty chair
- The news from a loved one that his or cancer is in remission
- The finding of the family dog that got lost
So many occasions to celebrate, big or small! And yet, how many of them go uncelebrated?
Our impromptu celebrations don’t need to be complex, and they certainly don’t need to be expensive. Forget the filet mignon or the big pool party that will cost you hundreds of dollars. If a friend has good news to celebrate, what’s wrong with getting together for lattes and cinnamon rolls in order to rejoice? When it comes to celebrating the moments of life, the simpler the better.
We Need People in Our Lives
When Abraham celebrated his son’s weaning, I somehow don’t believe that he rented an expensive hall, paid a king’s ransom for it to be catered, and shelled out a fortune for entertainment. I imagine a simple people sitting before their tents beneath the beautiful Middle Eastern sky, eating, drinking, singing, and celebrating in their hearts because of a milestone that was reached in the life of a young boy. I see a people who didn’t need anything else, and who were perfectly content, because they had God and one another.
We need people in our lives. We don’t need gadgets, big homes, fancy furniture, and expensive cars. We don’t need overseas vacations, designer clothing, and impressive careers. We need the gift of each other. We need the gift of getting together with others in order to celebrate the milestones and many happy occasions in life. What would bring you the greater joy? A new car in your driveway or seeing your own joy reflected in the faces of others around you who are celebrating with you because they are truly happy for you?
A friend of mine is having a cast removed from her leg. A bunch of us are going to get together in order to celebrate this simple moment. We will gather around my table drinking pumpkin spice coffee, eating chocolate covered espresso beans, and consuming more coffee cake than is good for us. We will laugh, rejoice, and simply enjoy the gift of one another.
May our lives become what they were in the days of Abraham and in the days of my Italian immigrant family. May our celebrations be simple, and may they be many.
To get you started on your way, I leave you with my coffee cake recipe. The next time you have a moment to celebrate, bake the cake, brew the coffee, gather those whom you love around your kitchen table… and simply rejoice.
1-1/2 cups flour
2-1/2 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
¾ cup sugar
½ cup butter, melted
½ cup milk
½ cup sour cream
1 tsp. vanilla
½ cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons butter (room temp.)
2 tablespoons flour
¾ cup sugar 2 tsp. cinnamon
Walnuts or pecans, optional
Mix first three ingredients and set aside.
In a separate bowl, beat egg until frothy. Beat in sugar and butter.
Add milk, sour cream, and vanilla.
Add dry ingredients and mix on LOW. Do not over mix.
Combine streusel ingredients until mixture is crumbly. Set aside.
Grease a 9.5-inch pie pan.
Put ½ batter in pie pan and spread evenly.
Cover with ½ streusel topping.
Repeat, and top with chopped nuts if desired.
Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 35-45 minutes. (I bake it for 45 minutes).