by Rev. Robert Griffith
Well it seems that Christmas is over. The nativity scenes are disappearing. The Christmas lights are coming down and because we celebrate Christmas at the end of our year, it has become a conclusion to the year and a wonderful way to end another 12 month chapter in our life’s journey. But then I saw this shirt advertised again last week, a few days before Christmas. But is it over?
Let’s do some thinking here for a moment. The entire Christmas story, if told correctly, is actually a story of beginnings – not endings. It’s a story full of promise for the future, not some bookend at the end of the shelf we call ‘a year’.
However the world and most Churches are telling us that Christmas is over for another year. Sadly, that may be true for many – but that should never be the case. Christmas is where the greatest story ever told begins.
When the song of the angels has stilled, when the star in the sky has gone, when the wise men are safely home and the shepherds are back with their flocks … then the true work of Christmas begin
… to find the lost,
… to heal the broken,
… to feed the hungry,
… to release the prisoner,
… to rebuild the nations,
… to bring peace among the people,
… to make music in our heart,
… to worship our Messiah and King,
… to embrace His mission to bring heaven to earth and
… to advance His kingdom every day!
Christmas is never ‘over’ and it certainly does not signal the end of a year or the end of a chapter or the end of anything - it is always pointing us to a beginning. Now I know that ‘Merry Christmas’ is followed very closely by ‘Happy New Year’ and that we make that the beginning. But January 1st is nothing more than date on the calendar. The truth is this: unless the reality, the power and the wonder beneath the tinsel, bells and carols of Christmas is a daily reality, a present power, an embraced truth in our lives today - then this new year will be no happier than the last.
We can gather up all the ‘happy new year’ blessings we like and they will mean nothing, produce nothing and just make us a little more skeptical about that phrase next year! Unless Jesus has truly come to more than a manger in Bethlehem; unless the blessed child in that nativity scene is also the crucified, risen and reigning Lord in our lives, our Church, our families and our world, then Christmas really isover and any new year ‘happiness’ we experience will be worldly and superficial.
This past year has been a journey for us all. For some, the road has brought great joy. For others, pain – unspeakable pain. We look around and see a broken world. As we gaze at the chaos around us our hearts beat to the rhythm of uncertainty. Our future seems anything but secure. We wonder if hope is dying. So what do we do if we want 2022 to really be a happy new year?
We do the only thing we can do. We do the only thing we should do. We do the only thing that matters, we . . . Turn our eyes upon Jesus and look full in His wonderful face as the things of earth grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace!
I cannot imagine how many millions of times the words ‘Happy New Year’ have been uttered this week across our dysfunctional world. But is a ‘happy new year’ just a vain hope? Is it even a reasonable expectation? A happy year is something we all hope for, wish for and pray for but a happy year can so quickly become a hard year, a broken year, a sick year, a painful year, a messy year, an exhausting year, a stressful year, a failed year. All too often our hopes and dreams for the new year are totally de-railed by the circumstances of that year as they unfold, many of which we have absolutely no control over and therein lies our problem.
Trying to control all the circumstances of life is like trying to compete against a gusty wind with a leaf-blower. Some days the wind is behind us and it’s great. Other days we discover our pathetic leaf blower is no match for forces beyond our control. If we truly want this to be a happy new year, then we have to look beyond our circumstances in our pursuit of true happiness.
As this new year rolls out before us like a blank canvas, we need to be praying for truehappiness – the kind of happiness that only comes from faith in an all-knowing, all-powerful, trustworthy God. The news broadcasts will continue to bombard us as evil, loss, pain, suffering and injustice dominate the landscape in this new year. The date on a calendar means nothing to those evil forces which work against us every day – they are constant – some will even increase in 2022.
Only one thing needs to change for us to truly have a happy new year, and that isus. Our attitude, our focus, our faith, our trust in a God Whose love and grace is always greater than our sin and failure; a God Who is willing and able to do exceedingly, abundantly more than all we ask or even imagine; a God Whose heart breaks over the injustice, oppression, evil, sickness and death our world has endured in 2021 – but a God Whose power is made perfect in our weakness; a God in Whom we have hope, redemption and eternal life.
So yet again, as I do week after week after week in this very place, I need to point you to the only place where happy new years are dispensed – Jesus Christ. You have a choice as this new year begins, it’s the same choice you have every day: you can choose to move towards Christ and His kingdom purposes or you can move away from Him. There is no in between and that is the only New Years Resolution you really need to make: “In 2022, I choose to embrace Jesus Christ, His kingdom and His mission, more personally, more intentionally and more completely.”
Throw away all your other resolutions – none of them will amount to anything anyway, unless this resolution is your highest priority. For as you draw near to Him, He will draw near to you and everything else will finally come into focus and whether this is a problem-free year or a crisis-filled year for you, the only thing that really matters is you and God, side by side, as you allow Him to transform you more and more into the image of His Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ.
Millions of Christians are crying out to God right now across the world and asking Him to reveal His will for their lives in this new year. What a tragic waste of energy – when He has already answered that prayer over and over and over again. His will for us is the same as it has been all our lives: God wants us to be transformed by the renewing of our mind as we become more and more conformed to the image of His Son, our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Everything else is open to negotiation: Where you live, who you marry, what career you choose, what house or car you buy, what Church fellowship you commit to, what friends you choose, what ministries you connect to and minister through. Of course God cares about all those things in your life but the essence of God’s will for you has nothing do with any of those things. It is all about who you are in relation to Christ.
God wants us to do all those things inChrist, throughChrist andforChrist. He wants us to reflect Jesus in all areas of our lives. God’s will for you this year is the same as His will for you last year – He wants you to live and move and have your very being in Christ. Everything else will flow from that. What is God’s will for you in 2022? Jesus answered that question over 2000 years ago when He told us all to seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness and all these things will then follow on and flow out of our strengthening walk with God, through Christ.
Now of course being in Christ will at times take you to the mountain top of ecstasy, joy and wonder - where you feel like you can just reach out and touch God Himself. At other times being in Christ will take you deep into the darkness of fallen humanity where sickness, death, betrayal and despair are the only things you can see before you in the darkness of the valley. But whether you are on the mountain or in the valley is not the real issue – what is most important is whether you are in that place with Christ, in Christ and living for Christ. That is the key issue. That is the only issue. That will be an indicator of whether you are fulfilling the will of God for your life and that will be the source of true happiness – the kind that comes in spite of our circumstances.
This is how we live the Christmas Story 365 days a year. This is how we make sure ‘happy new year’ is far more than a platitude. This is how I make this my year and how you make this your year. This is how the incarnation – God entering humanity – moves from a theological concept to a daily, empowering reality. Jesus, the man, our brother, the Carpenter from Nazareth, the human just like you and me - showed us a very long time ago how we can and should live and how we can make every year our year – lived for good and for God.
In John 5:19, we read where Jesus said the most amazing and life-defining thing about His ministry and life and, by extension, your life and mine today. I have shared this many times with you and this will certainly not be the last time. When Jesus walked among us as a man, He said, “I only do what I see the Father doing.”Every day of His life and ministry, He was led by the Spirit into whatever situation God the Father determined and was active in at that time. This moment by moment commitment to only do what the Father was doing led Jesus to some amazing mountain-tops:
> the feeding of the five thousand
> the mount of transfiguration
> the raising from the dead of his friend Lazarus and Jairus’ daughter
> and who can forget that Palm Sunday celebration with hundreds of thousands of people lining the streets crying,
“Hosanna to the Son of David!”
But this commitment by Jesus to only do what He saw the Father doing also took Him into some really dark places:
> that battle with Satan in the wilderness
> the oppression of the Pharisees
> the betrayal of a friend
> being disowned by an even closer friend
> and of course, what could be worse than the agony of Gethsemane; the horror and pain of Calvary?
Well, let me tell you what could be worse – Jesus not following the will of the Father into the depths of those valleys – thatwould have been worse! Only doing what He saw the Father doing and only speaking the words the Father gave Him to speak, led Jesus into the best and the worst circumstances of life as a human being and through His commitment to follow His Father into hell itself, if needed, Jesus brought victory, freedom and eternal life to billions of people, including you and me.
So when I wish you all a ‘happy new year’ - this is what I am wishing for you. That you will face whatever this year dishes out to you with faith, with confidence and with the same determination that Jesus had to only do what the Father is doing – whether that places you on a mountain or in a valley or both this year - won’t ultimately matter.
As you press into the heart and purposes of God, your attitude towards the circumstances of life will be what changes for you this year – and then there is no limit to what God can do for you, in you and through you, as you let Him.
Let me pray with you and for you …
Gracious and loving Father God, we pray that You would grant us a happy new year … not by shielding us from all sorrow and pain, but by strengthening our faith in You so we can bear whatever may come our way; not by making our path easy, but by making us sturdy enough to travel any path this year will set before us; not by taking hardships from us, but by removing all trace of fear from our hearts as we face those hardships; not by granting us unbroken sunshine, but by teaching us how to let Your Son, our Lord, shine in us every day – even, and especially in the shadows and the times of darkness.
Lord God, remind us again as this new year unfolds before us that true happiness is never found or lost in the circumstances of life. If we truly hope that 2022 will be a happy new year – then help us Lord to stop trying to control our circumstances, or run from them, or scream at them, or even rejoice in them. Help us to simply be still and know that You are God; You are good; we have been bought with a price; You called us to be Your children before the foundation of the earth, and whatever this year throws at us, You will catch it all and build something precious, something unique, something wonderful – for us, in us and through us!
May we let your Spirit remind us of the truth – that nothing, nothing at all will change Your love, your mercy, your forgiveness and your amazing grace towards us - each and every year! And Lord, show us the faces of all those people to whom we have wished a ‘Happy New Year’ already this week. Then bring us to our knees in prayer for each and every one of them in the days and months ahead, as we pray that they will find a new depth and reality in their relationship with You, for unless they do – unless Jesus is more real and more present for them this year than last year … then our ‘happy new year’ was just a meaningless, superficial platitude – a fingers-crossed childish wish upon a star – a customary greeting which we know has no power to deliver -any change in person’s life.
So Lord, grant us the gift of faith to believe that as we lean more into Jesus, as we live and move and have our very being more in Jesus; as we relate to those around us more through Jesus … then this year will truly be a happy new year in the kingdom of God … and we will truly make this year our year. Not one which just rolls over us as we helplessly face whatever comes. This year can be a year when we truly take You at Your word and seize the day – every day and make it count for You! We pray this bold prayer in and through the name above all names, Jesus. Amen.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Like our sermons?
Sign up and you'll receive the new sermon each Sunday
We promise not to send you anything else.