What’s So Happy About It?
Pastor Leslie Tipton
Ephesians 4:11-13 (New International Version, ©2010)
11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
Happy New Year, Church! Happy New Year! How many times do you think you’ve said this in the past three days, or how many times do you think you’ve heard it? “Happy New Year” is a traditional greeting surrounding the marking of the new year, but what does a new year mean, and why are we so happy about it? What’s so happy about a new year? Let’s first take a look at the history of the new year celebration.
In 46 B.C.E. the Roman emperor Julius Caesar first established January 1 as New Year’s day. Janus was the Roman god of doors and gates, and had two faces, one looking forward and one back. Caesar felt that the month named after this god (“January”) would be the appropriate “door” to the year. Caesar celebrated the first January 1 New Year by ordering the violent routing of revolutionary Jewish forces in the Galilee. Eyewitnesses say blood flowed in the streets. In later years, Roman pagans observed the New Year by engaging in drunken orgies—a ritual they believed constituted a personal re-enacting of the chaotic world that existed before the cosmos was ordered by the gods.
As Christianity spread, pagan holidays were either incorporated into the Christian calendar or abandoned altogether. By the early medieval period most of Christian Europe regarded Annunciation Day (March 25) as the beginning of the year. (According to Catholic tradition, Annunciation Day commemorates the angel Gabriel’s announcement to Mary that she would be impregnated by G-d and conceive a son to be called Jesus.)
If we think about New Year’s Day rationally, it really is just another day, another 24 hours, another 1440 minutes, another 86,400 seconds. The moment the clock strikes midnight, it really is just another one of those seconds that has passed, and entered us into another day. So why is it so happy.
What’s all the hoopla about a new year? Why do we make it a national holiday, a time to go out and celebrate, a day of reflection. Why all the attention for this one day of the year? Is it really all about resolutions? Show of hands here...how many have made new year’s resolutions for 2011. And, if you’re brave, how many have already broken those resolutions?
The new year......what’s so happy about it?
Nothings gonna change. We don’t see the economy taking any positive leaps and bounds, unless you consider people trampling each other to get the most popular toy or gadget on Black Friday change for good. Unless you consider rising gas prices good. Unless you view rising crime rates happy. Unless we take a look at our latest financials a “good sign.” So I ask you again, what’s so happy about it?
Let’s see if we can get some insight into this Happy New Year thing.
T.S. Eliot wrote in “Little Gidding”
"For last year's words belong to last year's language, and next year's words await another voice. And to make an end is to make a beginning.
To make an end is to make a beginning. Aha, the definition of a new year’s resolution....making an end to something in order to make a new beginning. And even though we see very little to make us happy in this world, we still have an incredible opportunity TO MAKE A CHANGE IN OUR LIVES AND IN THIS WORLD.
Funny thing about the new year. It gives us the OPPORTUNITY to make a change, and it gives us a timely marker during which to make those changes. Some use it as an excuse to wait for, and some use it as the very first motivation we have ever had to make those changes. Whatever the motivation, it is an opportunity, just as every day is.
Now, I’m gonna give you a heads up right now. I’m not an advocate of New Year’s resolutions full of fluff and promises. Yes, we all want to lose weight, get back in the gym, maintain our youthful appearance and save more money. All of those things are nice, and they make us feel better about ourselves. However, I am going to suggest a few “resolutions” based on Biblical instruction. Instead of a feel good statement about What Would Jesus Do, I’m going to lead us in a discussion about black and white, and I’m not talking about some of our skin colors. Black and White, right here. (hold up the Bible)
Let’s go back for a moment to our Scripture reading today. And I would like for us all to read this together, out loud, as one. You’ll find it on page _______ in the church Bibles. Please, everyone pick up a Bible or read along with another.
Read Ephesians 4:11-13
Ephesians 4:11-13 (New International Version, ©2010)
11 So Christ
Let’s stop there for a moment.
So Christ....the fullness of God, sent by God, foretold by an angel, carried in the womb by Mary, miraculously conceived by the Holy Spirit. Christ, God-incarnate, our Savior, Messiah, Jehovah, Redeemer and Friend, Healer, Deliverer, our Lord, our Teacher, The Great Example, Christ. Need we go any further? Need we say another word? Need we give any more bullet points? So Christ.....yes, Christ. No other ever was, ever will be, nor is right now. So Christ!
Let’s continue reading:
So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
Whew! You wanna make a resolution, let’s make it at least partly based on this piece of Scripture. “Until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”
That may seem like a tall order for any of us, but it can be done. And how do we do that? Ask any addict how they live their lives. One day at a time. One day at a time making the choice to work toward unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God. Let’s take a couple of minutes to break this down.
What exactly is “unity in the faith?” One word at a time. Unity - we think and act and believe alike. Faith - our beliefs that God is love, God loves us, Christ is our savior, He came to restore our relationship with God, and that we strive to become like him day by day. Unity in the faith - until we all hold the same truths, and have the same confidence in the Son of God. Can it happen? Sure it can? Will it happen. I’ve got news for you....it’s happening here NOW! How is it happening? Weekly corporate worship, where the saints (that’s you guys) come together to give God the worship He is due, in unity and love. It’s happening in weekly Bible studies. It’s happening in one on one counseling, in discipleship meetings, in classes, in fellowship.
It’s happening! Are you a part of it? I sure hope so. Do you know how to be a part of it? I sure hope so. Unity of the faith is happening every day here at COHSS.
The second part - knowledge of the Son of God - comes right alongside unity in the faith. We can’t be unified with each other unless we are doing that by learning about the Son of God, who is Christ Jesus.
In fact, our focus within unity in the faith IS knowledge of Christ. How do we attain knowledge of the Son of God, that is Christ? I’ve got a few suggestions for you.
1. Daily devotional and Bible reading
Now before you turn off on me, let me just say, I’ve got some practical examples.
Daily Bread - Not only do we give them out here on the literature table, you can also read it online (see our FB page for the daily Scripture reading), read it on your smart phone (yes, there’s an app for that).
I venture to say it has never been easier for us to read our daily devotions.
Bible reading plan - sign on to Blue Letter Bible.com, and download a reading plan. You can even read Scripture online, and mark that you’ve read the passages. Hear what I’m telling you. The website keeps track of what you’ve read.
2. Daily prayer and meditation
Goes without saying. You can’t get to know someone without spending time with them. Pick someone for illustration
What are we really talking about here? We’re talking about growing roots, and not just any roots...spiritual roots. Why are roots important?
Ficus trees in hurricanes, fall over almost every time
Why....their roots grow shallow, not deep
Roots not only stabilize us, they nourish us.
Jeremiah 17:7 says “Blessed is the man whose trust is in the Lord, whose confidence is in Him. He will be like a tree planted by the stream that sends out its roots by the stream.