“… and a Happy New Year”
During the month of December we heard and sang many songs and carols: some proclaiming the birth of a Savior, others hoping for a winter wonderland, and a few wishing us a Merry Christmas. In fact, the carol “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” has reportedly been sung since sometime in the 16th century, although its author is reportedly unknown. Do you remember the way it begins? The first verse starts: “We wish you a Merry Christmas; We wish you a Merry Christmas; We wish you a Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year.” Of course, we always associate Christmas with the New Year, as only a week separates them, but they seem on the surface to be two festivals or celebrations that are at odds with each other. Christmas comes with a wondrous sense of reverence, while New Year’s comes with a sense of an all night party that welcomes us into tomorrow. But perhaps if we step back a bit we can see the connection and indeed how closely the one is linked to the other.
We can do that by seeing in Christmas the wonderful gift of a Savior God has given us. Even the ‘not seriously religious folk’ will pause for a moment during the Christmas season to reflect upon what the Scriptures tell us and what the Christian community is celebrating. Indeed, the season is ‘merry’ exactly because God has come into the world to save humanity from its rebellion and sin. The Christmas season tends to bring out the best in us as we open our hearts to others and contemplate the babe born in a manger to be Lord of all. Christmas truly is merry when the spirit of the new-born Christ child is born into our lives.
But how does that connect with the Happy New Year portion of the formula? Do parties and the birth of Christ go together? I don’t know about that, but I am sure that Merry Christmas and Happy New Year go hand-in-hand. Perhaps the reality facing us is that it is only by celebrating the birth of Christ and experiencing the joy and excitement that His birth causes that we can ever find true happiness in the first place or hope to have a Happy New Year. It is in the realization that God has acted by coming into our world to reveal himself and his love and plan for our salvation that hope is brought to life in us and in our world. At Christmas people often say “Christ is the reason for the season,” and I would add on any and every day that “Christ is the reason for all seasons.”
If we hope to have a Happy New Year or a happy today or tomorrow or any day, we must begin by thinking about the gift of a Savior God has given us and remember this gift is not just given at Christmas, but given each and every day. If we want a Happy New Year, when we put away the Christmas decorations and forget all the presents we both gave and received, let us not put away or forget the Savior who brings to us hope and joy and promise and forgiveness. If we could just remember that Jesus Christ is born so that we may truly live, not only can we anticipate a Happy New Year, but we can and should anticipate joy and hope in every day and all days.
I’m praying for a Happy New Year for you and for me as we enter 2015.
Yours in Christ,
Pastor Butler +