Wesley United Methodist Church
Have a Happy New Year!
The New Year has just started. From Christmas to New Year's Day I heard many times the greeting, "Have a Happy New Year!" By now we seldom hear, "Have a Happy New Year." The new year has already started, but I think it still is appropriate for us to greet one another with well wishes for this year of 2013. But it is normally a seasonal greeting that we do without really thinking what truly makes a "happy new year." Do we have a "happy new year" only if everything goes well for us, in our eyes? Is happiness dependent on circumstances or is happiness within our choosing regardless of circumstances?
In the time of Jesus, the Greeks had an interesting word for happiness: makarios. It described what they thought was the experience of the gods. The Greek gods were a type of magnified human beings. They had failings as well as strengths. The Greek gods were thought to be makarios because they had everything made. They were "happy" or "blessed." Jesus uses this word makarios in a way that turns its common meaning upside down.
"Happy (makarios) are the poor in spirit. Happy (makarios) are those who mourn. Happy (makarios) are the meek. Happy (makarios) are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. Happy (makarios) are the merciful. Happy (makarios) are the pure in heart. Happy (makarios) are the peacemakers. Happy (makarios) are those who are persecuted because of righteousness."
Jesus is saying that happiness, or having everything just wonderful, comes not from having everything we want. Instead, it comes through being poor, through mourning, through needing God, through being persecuted for righteousness' sake. This is not the road to happiness we usually think of.
Jesus says, happy are those who trust completely in God regardless of the circumstances they find themselves in because God is always faithful to keep God's promises. My year, and yours as well, is going to have some pitfalls in it but the amazing message of Jesus is that those pitfalls can be the means of great happiness if I turn them over to God. So I wish each of you a very HAPPY NEW YEAR!