The following story comes from a man named Donald Castle, an Episcopal Priest:
In June I was waiting in a clinic for my doctor's appointment when an older couple arrived. "Merry Christmas! Merry Christmas!" the older gentleman greeted the room of people. His enthusiasm was infectious.
Most of the patients ignored the outburst; I decided to return the greeting, "Merry Christmas to you, too!"
Sensing a sympathetic ear, the wife of the well-wisher explained quietly: "It started this past year. For no reason, my husband would begin to get into the Christmas spirit. At first we dismissed it, but then we realized how much joy it brought him. So we started decorating the house, singing carols, having a spur-of-the-moment celebration. You know, after doing this a number of times, we look forward to it. Christmas can come any time, any place. It's always a pleasant surprise."
I’ve heard numerous stories like this from people who have had a loved one suffering from dementia. Everyone agrees how incredibly painful it is watching someone they’ve known all these years disappear bit by bit, like stepping behind a curtain. But many have also said that it has come with a peculiar and unexpected set of blessings.
One such blessing is the exuberant, childlike joy that people sometimes develop. It’s like one of the first things they forget is that they’re supposed to play it cool. That’s how you end up with a man who is shamelessly celebrating Christmas in June.
This Sunday we’re going to be talking about the spiritual discipline of Celebration. It is a discipline that, when practiced regularly, has multiple benefits. First, if we celebrate regularly, we start noticing more reasons to celebrate—kind of a snowball effect. Second, people are drawn to this God we celebrate. People actually want to know more about following Christ if it actually leads to a more joyful life.