Pastoral Perspectives

Happy New Year

I asked the guy sitting in the corner if my family could sit with him for lunch. He moved his stuff away and said, “Sure! And Happy New Year!” We continued to converse and later we found out that he was not a believer. I went away wondering what ‘Happy New Year’ means to a believer and a non-believer.

We wish each other year after year; send greetings to those who are close to us; customise the message with Bible verses or quotes. There is nothing wrong in wishing each other well but I am not sure if we think deeply about these three words.

A quick look online shows greetings and wishes like:

“My New Year Wishes for You
12 Months of Happiness
52 Weeks of Fun and Laughter
365 Days of Success
8,760 Hours of Good Health
525,600 Minutes of Blessings
31,536,000 Seconds of Joy.”

Another one reads, “2019, Year of Double Blessing”

Such wishes are indeed wishes. Most of us would have realised by now that not all wishes would come true. So what does Happy New Year mean to you? To begin, perhaps it is good to ask ourselves what makes us happy.

In the movie Despicable Me 2, the character Gru felt happy when he fell in love with Lucy. He danced along the way to Pharrell William ‘s famous song ‘Happy’. If happiness is falling in love, it is short lived because within the next half an hour, Gru was already unhappy in the movie! As a mother, I know it is impossible to keep children happy all the time. If happiness was the way to raise a child, even buying over the whole Lego shop would not keep them happy. I remember our family watching a Lego movie. At the end of the show, the kids were happy but my husband turned to me and jokingly said he wanted to cry. I asked why and he explained, “Lego will merchandise all those characters and our kids will ask us to buy them.” Of course, as parents we cannot and do not keep our children happy all the time. That is not happiness.

So what is happiness and what does it mean for us as believers? Where can we find happiness? As believers, we go to the word of God because only our creator can tell his creation what will give us true happiness. Two years ago, we preached through the Beatitudes and interestingly the Greek word recorded in Matthew 5 to mean happiness (blessed) is ‘makarios’. So in the sermon on the Mount, Jesus is saying that happy are those who are poor in spirit, who mourn, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, those who are persecuted… It is no wonder then that even as we wish each other year after year “Happy New Year”, we will not be truly happy if we do not live according to God’s definition of happiness. Of course, our hearts sink at the very thought of such high standards. It would be impossible to achieve on our own but because of Christ’s advent (coming), He has made it possible because He is Emmanuel (God with us). Someone wisely said that God does not tell us to do something without giving us the means and the power to do it.

This brings us to the second word ‘New’. Recently the block where we are staying went through the Home Improvement Programme (HIP) to renovate the toilets. It was interesting to observe that many people took the opportunity to discard many old and unwanted things during this time and the garbage bin was filled with piles and piles of thrash. There was an incident where someone even discarded something that looked dangerous and security was beefed up! Most people would not want to keep old things when the place is renovated to look clean and new. Somehow it would not match.  This is exactly what Paul instructed the Ephesian believers—to discard their old selves as it was not in keeping with the new life they have in Christ (Eph 4:22-24). The Greek word used by Paul ‘kainos’ denotes a new kind in contrast to what previously existed. The sinful old man that was corrupted at the fall in the Garden of Eden is now made new (kainos).  This is the power that God has given us that in Christ, we might be able to live a Happy New life. We are told to do one thing; that is to put the old off and put on the new. Wishing each other Happy New Home will not keep our homes clean and new. We need to haul our old and useless things to the bin so that the new might find their right place. Let us not merely wish or type Amen to such wishes but make the effort to truly find out and do what our Lord wants us to do as His people.

Have a Happy New Year TrueWayians. May you be happy and start anew in the Lord for our hope is not in the new year but in the one who is able to make all things new.