Within Latin American culture, celebrating and commemorating are synonymous. We carry them out with the same grateful, colorful spirit of a people who, despite oppression, always choose to focus on the joys of life.
When the people of Latin America turn to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, they do so admirably, becoming aware of what it means to be both grateful and happy for the blessings of God. Our celebrations are a routine part of life, happening every day. Yet they never cease to be special.
As Christian men and women, we celebrate the Salvation that comes only because of the precious blood of Jesus. This Salvation is something we don’t deserve, but we welcome it as our own. It is an invaluable treasure. We embrace the cross where the Son of God sacrificed himself for humanity and all sin. How can we not celebrate Jesus, if we are saved by him forever!?
Today, two thousand years after the birth of Christ, we continue to celebrate. His coming changed everything! His death tore the veil in the temple! Until then, men and women had been separated from the Holy of Holies, where God dwelt. Only the High Priest could enter the Holy of Holies, and only on special occasions. That this veil was torn and split in two meant that we gained access to God; Jesus became the bridge between God and men. I want to spend my whole life celebrating so great a fact! I celebrate and thank God infinitely for the sacrifice made by His Son.
Thanks to Jesus, we also stopped being strangers to God. We were adopted as His children. God is our Father, and Jesus our brother. We enter into another dimension, which is the dimension of being God’s family.
In our Latino celebrations, the family is never missing. La familia (the family) gives us a special refuge where we know that there is unconditional love. Even if the enemy wants to take away this happiness, God helps us to keep our family united in the bond of love and peace. This is often a difficult task. That is why, during the holidays – Christmas, a wedding, a birthday, or an anniversary – the first celebration is with our family and for our family. This virtue of famiglia insieme (the united family) is why we like to have all the members of our family sitting around a table together.
It is no coincidence that, before his death, Jesus brought together his family (his disciples and followers) to tell them what was coming and to celebrate a great Jewish holiday with them. The celebration that surrounds us also surrounded them.
Latinos not only celebrate God and family, but friendship as well. We celebrate being able to help each other. In the city where I live, the Latino communities are divided by their home countries. But at church, which is also a family, we gather from different countries to celebrate God every Sunday. We are friends among ourselves, and we extend friendship to others.
Celebrating for us means being able to remember the blessings in our lives. We celebrate victories after difficult spiritual tests. We celebrate with a handshake, a shared barbecue, a meeting of people who know Jesus. We commemorate historical moments in our faith communities.
We also celebrate achievements like those we have achieved with Biblica, the International Bible Society. We carry over 15 million copies of the New International Version Bible. We celebrate that it is the modern version most accepted by Hispanics – more than any other translation. We celebrate that there is a hunger and thirst for the Word of God and the knowledge of His Glory. Each Bible, every biblical portion, every book in The Books of The Bible we use in Community Bible Experience is an extremely important reason to celebrate and be thankful for.
Our Latin American office celebrates the incredible outreach held in Cuba last year that brought many souls to the Lord! We celebrate the Quichua/Spanish Bilingual New Testament for kids! We celebrate our partnerships with great ministries who help us to fulfill our mission while we help them to fulfill theirs!
And we continue to celebrate the Word of God. It has power, a transforming power, a power that changes lives, communities, countries and – we trust – all humanity as well. Every time a Bible leaves our warehouse, we celebrate it, because we know that His message does not return void, and that we can be part of this transformative movement of millions of men and women.
We celebrate being part of an organization that exists to provide the Bible in accurate, contemporary translations and formats, so that more people around the world will have the opportunity to be transformed by Christ.
I like to think about Jesus gathering his family of disciples to celebrate the Last Supper. These many years later, we continue to gather to celebrate His fulfillment of the task entrusted to Him by God: His death, resurrection, and ascension.
As fervent followers of Jesus, God the Father, and the Holy Spirit, we celebrate the Lord’s amazing work. And as we do, our very lives become the fruit of celebration, bringing more and even greater celebrating.
Let us celebrate our God!