“Happy New Year!”
It’s the refrain repeated across social media, among friends and family, and even offered to total strangers as one year rolls into the next. We long to be happy and live in a happy world. We wish it for ourselves and for those we love. A new year feels like a new opportunity to find happiness.
There is nothing wrong with wishing to be happy, but there is a right place to look for the answer, and it isn’t in our circumstances, our own abilities, or a date on the calendar.
I think it is fitting that a new year begins on the heels of Christmas when we celebrate that God sent His only Son to take on human flesh and save His people from their sins (John 3:16). You see, there had to be an answer to sin before there could be an answer to our longings for happiness.
When God created the world, it was a happy place. The first man and woman He created, Adam and Eve, were happy people in the truest sense of the word. They had a perfect relationship with God, with each other, and with all of creation. All God made was good, which meant the life Adam and Eve had in the garden was good (Genesis 1:31).
But, through an act of disobedience by our first parents, sin entered the world and with it suffering and death (Genesis 3). We struggle for happiness because we are broken, fallen, sinful people living in a broken, fallen, sinful world (Psalm 31:10).
That takes me back to the new year and our longing to be happy. A new year gives the illusion of a fresh start, but there really is nothing different between December 31st and January 1st. Nothing magical happens. A day is a day is a day.
What we need isn’t a new year, what we need is a new life (John 10:10). One free from the reign and power of sin (Romans 8:2). That freedom can’t be found in a date on the calendar, but only in the person of Jesus Christ: that little baby lying in a manger whose birth we just celebrated.
When the angel visited the shepherds to announce Christ’s birth, he told them he was bringing good news that would bring great joy to all people (Luke 2:8-20). Great JOY! The angels didn’t bring the good news of a new year to the shepherds, but of a newly born baby.
Will the year ahead be a happy one? I don’t know, but I do know this, the story of Christmas isn’t over just because our celebration of Christmas is. The fact that God the Son took on human flesh (John 1:14) and came to save us from our sins (Matthew 1:21) is as much good news today as it was to the shepherds in the field back then.
Whether the new year lies ahead of you like freshly fallen snow in which you just can’t wait to make your mark or feels daunting like the tumultuous open sea in which you fear the next crashing wave or rising storm, know this, happiness doesn’t depend on a year, but on a person. And the kind of happiness or great joy Jesus gives isn’t dependent on what is to come or isn’t this next year but the relationship and promises of God He has secured for us (Romans 3:21-26; 2 Corinthians 1:20).
No matter what day it is today, it is the perfect day to place your faith in Him. Because of Jesus, there is Good News for every day.