One night decades ago my extended family spent an evening at a local restaurant for dinner. We had a grand ol' time. The food was great, the drinks flowing, the conversation lively, the laughter loud and long.

As we drove home, one of our kids, the youngest, asked from the very back seat of our van:

"Does the Lord love it when good people have a great time together?"

His voice was tremulous.

He sounded unsure.

Concerned that perhaps God was mad at all of us for having such a great time.

For a moment, we were silent. Sitting with the profundity of this question. From the lips of a child, and all that ...

Before we adults answered, we had to decide what we believed.

Does the Lord love it when good people have a great time together?

Or does the Lord hate it? Look down on it? Frown upon it?

This is such a serious question. It can define your whole life.

I thought back to a sermon I had recently written. This is what I remembered saying:

I think God knew humans would have a hard time believing that joy was our birthright. So, God started with his chosen people, the Israelites, and worked hard to teach them the discipline of celebration. The Jewish Scriptures tell of a God who commanded his people to stop their work and plan and prepare to celebrate for days on end. God simply said, 'I command you to celebrate! I command you to party!' The feast of unleavened bread, the feast of the harvest, feast of weeks, Passover, feast of the tabernacle, feast of trumpets, and on and on. These bashes were built into the rhythm of the Jewish calendar. And these were not little tea parties. These were raucous, shout-at-the-top-of-your-lungs, dance in the streets, week-long shindigs. People ate and drank and sang to glorify God. Work was not allowed. And this brought God great joy."

(Alice Shirey - Sermon on Joy)

After our pause, in the silent dark of that late night drive home, both my husband and I said to our kiddo, "Yes. Yes, the Lord definitely loves it when good people have a great time together. Yes."

The great CS Lewis said, "Joy is the serious business of heaven."

The great Fuller seminary professor, Lewis Smedes, said, "To miss out on joy is to miss out on the reason for your existence."

The great Canadian pastor and writer, Mark Buchanan said, "Earthly joy is a glimpse of heaven."

Even in the midst of pain and suffering, we can gather, eat the simplest food, drink the cheapest wine and laugh. Even when the world feels dark. Even then, the Lord loves it when good people have a great time together.

Joy is our birthright, friends. Eat, drink and be very merry!