God Send Us a Happy New Year
Today’s title is the refrain of the only New Year’s carol I know. The tune Greensleeves has, as far as I know, three sets of words. The original words are a song of lost love for the lady Greensleeves. Most of us know the Christmas words, “What Child Is This.” The third set of lyrics is the carol God Send Us a Happy New Year.
Each year, right after Christmas Day, we begin wishing everyone, “Happy New Year!” It’s a nice sentiment, and a good wish, for all of us hope that the new year will be better than the last one. That hope is what’s behind the baby new year replacing the tired old man who represents the year that’s ending. Even if the past year has been one of our best we hope the new one will be an improvement. We’ll make more money or get a better job. Our family situation will improve. Our kids will behave better, or win that college scholarship, or get the job that will make them financially independent of us. We’ll get along with our spouse better, or, if we’re single, we’ll finally meet the right one!
One of our greatest hopes, I suspect, is that our political situation will improve. There will be fewer places in the world with open hostilities. There will be fewer refugees cut off from their homes. The political parties in this country will finally remember they exist to help the people and not just to win elections. Whatever we hope for, it comes down to “God send us a happy new year.”
Every generation since Jesus Christ’s resurrection has believed the end times were near. The early disciples were sure Christ would return immediately, get rid of the Romans, set everything right, and take them to the place he promised in John’s gospel. The early Christians were so convinced of this they worried that their loved ones who had died would miss out. Paul had to reassure the Thessalonians that when Christ returned those who had died would be taken up first. They wouldn’t lose their heavenly reward.
Down through the centuries people have bemoaned the state of world affairs and become convinced that Jesus would return and put an end to the suffering of God’s people. Didn’t he tell his disciples that there would be wars, earthquakes and famines—not to mention tornadoes and hurricanes, oppression and slavery, terrorism and torture? Surely things have gotten so bad, each succeeding generation believed, that the end was imminent.
Yet the world continues. There has never been peace. There have always been earthquakes and famines. Every year we have devastating weather conditions. Crime continues to be a problem because many people do not respect the rule of law. We pray for peace but peace doesn’t come. We pray for healing for loved ones but it doesn’t happen. Is it any wonder we lose hope? Is it any wonder we pray for an end to trouble, to war, terrorism, torture, crime, disease, but feel deep in our hearts that nothing will change, that conditions are so hopeless that the end must be near?
So we pray, “God, send us a happy new year,” all the while believing that the only way it can be happy is if it’s the last one the world will ever see. The world’s situation—the nation’s situation has become so terrible that only complete destruction will change things for the better.
We must remember that God is working his purpose out. God is taking all the strands of our lives, all the strands of world events and weaving them into the tapestry of the kingdom.
Let’s make this new year happy by living into that promise, no matter how long it takes to be fulfilled.