Happy New Year!
How many times will you hear that in the coming days? It’s nice that friends wish us happiness, but have you ever wondered how that happiness is supposed to happen? Will it result from a new job? A new car or house? Maybe even some new friends? No, a happy new year is more likely to result from a happy new attitude than from any external condition.
Happiness happens, not as a result of what happens to us, but what happens within us. Regarding the former, we are often at the mercy of people and forces beyond our control. A new job may depend on the economy. The new car or house may depend on the new job. But what happens within us - that we can choose. And Jesus suggests that our attitude toward religion may have a tremendous impact on whether this will be for us a happy new year.
Jesus told a parable, an illustration, about things new and old. It’s foolish, he said, to patch an old garment with new, unshrunk fabric. The new material will shrink and make the tear worse. It’s also unworkable, he explained, to put new wine in old skins. As the wine expands, the already stretched old skin cannot. It bursts open ruining the skin and the wine. (Luke 6:36-39).
What does that have to do with whether we have a happy new year? Well, Jesus told those parables in response to complaints from religious leaders that his followers weren’t fasting. That complaint stemmed from Jesus’ participation in a party at Levi’s house at which there was “eating and drinking” (6:33). Those leaders thought of religion as something to suffer. They went without eating, making sure to “look somber” and “disfigure their faces” (Matthew 6:16).
They thought of religion as a funeral while Jesus described it as a festival. It’s like a wedding party he said (Luke 6:34) and nobody fasts during that kind of celebration. Certainly, there is a time to be serious. And following Jesus sometimes includes suffering. But the prevailing theme of God’s kingdom is joy. This kingdom’s constitution calls for its subjects to “Rejoice in the Lord always” (Philippians 4:4).
Will you have a happy new year? You can if you let your happiness come from within. You can if your faith is a festival. Your Father wishes you a happy new you!