Tuesday, 10 January 2017

How to be joyful in 2017

I wonder how many people still write Christmas thank you letters. I try, but confess that some of mine have been written closer to Easter! Perhaps for some, snail mail has been replaced by a thanx txt, which is not quite the same. Whatever our media of choice thankfulness is an important, and I suggest, a neglected virtue. Not only is gratitude right, it also does good to our souls.

Image result for keep calm and count your blessingsOf course, life normally has its fair share of frustrations and some may have faced dreadful griefs in recent months. I, for example, know of one family in our benefice that had a difficult and sad Christmas. But even then, I’m sure we can find reasons for thankfulness amidst our tears. Sometimes people think that a good moan might be therapeutic. And maybe there’s something to be said for getting things off our chests. But I reckon a habit of thankfulness is a much more effective way of increasing our joy.

Though it might be trite, the old advice is true: “Count your blessings, name them one by one, and it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.” Expressing our appreciation (for a lovely sunset, an enjoyable meal, a beautiful garden) actually increases our enjoyment of it. Praise and thanksgiving fosters joy.

From a Biblical standpoint, everything we have is a gift from God - the food on the table, the roof above our heads, the life we have are all tokens of His kindness and care. In other words, there are no self-made people. We owe our very lives to God. This perspective ought to intensify our joy because, as the harvest hymn puts it: “All good gifts around us are sent from heaven above, so thank the Lord for all his love”. Every blessing you enjoy is not a matter of your good luck or the product of your unaided hard work. All we have comes from God.

For the Christian, thankfulness goes even deeper and is more than trying to keep positive and looking on the bright side. The believer enjoys the great privilege of knowing and being known by our Maker and Saviour – Jesus Christ. In dying for us, Christ dealt with our sin, which is the chief source of unhappiness in life. As we turn to Him, we are assured of sins forgiven and promised the great gift of eternal life. May we abound in thankfulness and joy in 2017 as we reflect on and remember this good news. If, however, you do not believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and would like to, please come along to church or speak to David or myself.

May you have a joyous 2017!

Parish article for the first Sunday of Epiphany

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