A New Year 2023

To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven: A time to be born, And a time to die; A time to plant, And a time to pluck what is planted; A time to kill, And a time to heal; A time to break down, And a time to build up; A time to weep, And a time to laugh; A time to mourn, And a time to dance; A time to cast away stones, And a time to gather stones; A time to embrace, And a time to refrain from embracing; A time to gain, And a time to lose; A time to keep, And a time to throw away; A time to tear, And a time to sew; A time to keep silence, And a time to speak; A time to love, And a time to hate; A time of war, And a time of peace. – Ecclesiastes 3:1-8.

It’s an old custom: on New Year’s Eve, while the clock strikes midnight, we think of our aspirations for the new year and try to enter the unknown future with a dream, looking forward to the fulfillment of some cherished desire. Today we once again are approaching a new year. What do we desire for ourselves, for others, for everyone? What is the goal of all our hopes? The answer is always the same eternal word: happiness. Happy New Year! New happiness for a New Year! The particular happiness we desire is of course different and personal for each of us, but we all share in common the faith that this year, happiness might be around the corner, that we can look forward and hope for it.

But when is a person genuinely happy? After centuries of experience and everything we have learned about human beings, we can no longer equate happiness with externals circumstances of any kind; money, health, or success, for example. We know that none of these corresponds completely to that mysterious and ever elusive notion of what many call happiness. Clearly, physical comfort brings happiness, but not completely. Money brings happiness, but also anxiety. Success brings happiness, but also fear. It is striking that the more external happiness we have, the more fragile it becomes and the more intractable the fear that we will lose it and be left empty-handed. Perhaps this is why we wish each other new happiness in the New Year. The “old” happiness may never have really materialized, something was always missing. But now once again we look ahead with a prayer, a dream, a hope to what tomorrow might hold . . .

My goodness! The gospel long ago recorded the story of a man who became rich, built new barns to store his grain, and decided he now had everything necessary to guarantee his happiness! He was comfortable and at ease. But that night “God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’” – Luke 12:20. The gradual realization that nothing can be held onto, that ahead of us lies inevitable death and decay, is the venom which poisons the little and limited happiness that we do have. This is surely why we have the custom of making such a din of noise-makers, shouting, and loud laughter as the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve. We are afraid of being alone and in silence when the clock strikes as the merciless voice of fate: one strike, a second, a third, and so on, so inexorably, so evenly, so terribly, to the end. Nothing can change it, nothing can stop it.

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Thus we have two truly deep and indestructible poles of human consciousness: fear and happiness, nightmare and dream. The new happiness we dream about on New Year’s Eve would finally be able to calm, disperse and conquer fear; we dream of a happiness which has no fear lurking deep within, a fear from which we are always trying to protect ourselves, by drinking, by keeping busy, by surrounding ourselves with noise. Yet the silence of that fear is still louder than any noise. Yet we hear the echo of God’s voice, “Fool!” Yes, the immortal dream of happiness is by nature foolish in a world infected by fear and death. At the highest points of human culture, people are well-aware of this. One can feel the grief and sad truth behind the words of the great and life-loving poet Aleksandr Pushkin when he wrote: “In the world there is no happiness.” Indeed, a profound grief permeates all genuine artistic creativity. Only down below, at the bottom of human culture, do crowds go wild with noise and shouting, as if noise and feverish partying could bring happiness.

Yet in Christ Jesus we do have hope for something greater than happiness, a fruit of the Spirit, joy. “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.” – John 1:4-5. What this means is that the light cannot be swallowed-up by fear and anxiety, it cannot be dispersed by sadness and hopelessness. In this unending thirst for momentary happiness, if only people would find within themselves the strength to stop, to think, to look at the depth of life! If only they would listen to the words, to the voice calling to them eternally within those depths. If only they knew what genuine happiness truly is. “Therefore you now have sorrow; but I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you.” – John 16:22. Isn’t this what we dream about when the clock strikes midnight: joy that cannot be taken away? But how rarely we reach such depth! How we fear it for some reason, and put it aside: “Not today, but tomorrow, or the day after, I’ll turn my attention to what’s essential and eternal; only, not today. There’s still time.”

But there is really so little time. Only moments go by before the arrow of time whizzes to its fateful target. Why delay? For right here, in our very midst, Someone stands beside us and says: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.” – Revelation 3:20. If we would only set aside our fear and doubt, and look at Him, we would see such light, such joy, and such abundance of life that we would surely understand the meaning of that elusive and mysterious thing we call “happiness.”

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Unless otherwise noted, Scripture taken from the New King James Version®, NKJV © 1982 by Thomas Nelson.
Used by permission. All rights reserved.

About Roland Ledoux

Pastor of Oasis Bible Ministry, an outreach ministry of teaching, encouragement and intercessory prayer from the Holy Bible, the written Word of God and author of the ministry website, For The Love of God. He lives in Delta, Colorado with his beautiful wife of 50+ years and a beautiful yellow lab whom they affectionately call Bella.
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