This article should appear in next week's advertiser. Let me know what you think of it.
What were your highlights of 2011? For me, it was
the fabulous children's events up at St Matthew's. We had an amazing holiday
club with 75 kids noisily enjoying themselves… fabulous fun at Messy Church…
joyful celebrations at Blue Coat Sunday… deeply touching nativity plays… our
kids are funny, inspiring and full of life.
Yet as adults there is something poignant in the
happiness of children. As we get older we discover how much pain relationships
can bring. People let us down… people we care about suffer… people die and
leave us grieving… We fear for our children because one day they too will be
cast out of the garden of innocence. We wish we could protect them from the
bittersweet fruit of this knowledge.
Jesus said some odd things about happiness. You
can find them in the Sermon on the Mount. They're often written as
"Blessed are the poor in spirit" etc, but in the original language He
just meant "happy". So – "Happy are those who mourn"?
"Happy are those who hunger and thirst for justice"? "Happy are
you when people give you a hard time?" So you're happy when you're not
happy? What is He saying?
It doesn't make sense without God. Those who mourn
can be happy because God can bring comfort: He brought life out of death in the
resurrection of Jesus. He can fill us when we are empty and accept us when
others reject. This is happiness stronger than sorrow, stronger than death.
When everything else goes, God's love is still there for us.
It's all about relationships. In Jesus, God heals
our relationship with Him, so that the love can flow once more. Perhaps
"Blessed" is better after all: we can be happy, not because we find
happiness in this or that, but because God blesses us.
Happiness… We're all searching for it. Sometimes
it seems ever further away in today's society. Material things, success,
celebrity culture – they are not enough to satisfy our souls. May you find the
happiness you are searching for in 2012. Keep looking and don't give up! It's
out there. But I suspect you're more likely to find it when you look in the
place God put it – in Jesus His Son.
Happy New Year from everyone at St Matthew's!