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!