A new year is upon us. The joys and calamities of 2016 will pass away, and a new year fresh and full of possibilities and uncertainties will be ushered in. Some of us bring in the New Year with a party. Others will spend New Year’s Eve watching football or that silly ball drop from high atop a New York skyscraper. Some of us fight sleep in order to stay up until midnight and kiss the ones we love. Still others mark the occasion with champagne or by making resolutions or setting off fireworks. We celebrate in different ways I suppose.
The common denominator in these rituals is the focus on the passage of time. But in our heart of hearts, I suspect that many of us harbor the suspicion that 2017 really won’t be all that much different from 2016. There will undoubtedly be terror attacks, war and rumor of wars, many of the same stresses, trials and tribulations; Déjà vu all over again.
Still, I believe that in the strength of God’s Spirit, the New Year can be filled with joy. Jesus knew the sad and seamy side of life; he traveled about feeding hungry people, healing the sick, and preaching Kingdom values only to be killed by those he came to save. And yet, he often spoke of joy. He said, “These things I have spoken to you that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be full.”
Joy comes, I think, when we are grateful. We need not whine over what we do not have, but we should be thankful for all the gifts God has given us, and that there are those who love us. “Enter his gates with thanksgiving and into his courts with praise; be thankful and bless his name.” Psalm 100:4
Joy comes more easily with a positive attitude. “As a person thinks in their heart, so they are.” A little girl was asked one day why she was having such a happy day and she said, “Yesterday I let my thoughts push me around, and today I pushed my thoughts around.” Not bad counsel!
Joy comes too, when we seek out ways to help and serve others. As Jesus came not to be ministered to but to minister, so can we; by investing our time, our energies, our gifts, our money, and ourselves for others. Joy comes when we ask God to bring our lives into harmony with His will so that our lives are in tune with how he wants us to live. Joshua once challenged the Hebrew people to decide. "Choose this day whom you shall serve...!" January is a great time to do that - a great time to make new and better choices so that our lives are in harmony with God’s will.
One man I read about tried that: doing justice, showing mercy, and walking humbly with God. Whenever he felt that the day had gone well, he would read a portion of scripture and pray, “Well Lord, we are still on good terms.” May we as individuals and as a church find great joy and deep peace in seeking first God’s will and God’s kingdom. May God bless you all in the New Year ahead.
In Christian love, Pastor Joel
Rev. Dr. Doris Barron-Shell