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December Communique Letter from the Bishop

Dear brothers and sisters in the diocese,

I pray you are having a blessed Christmas season!

In her recent version of the song “I Wish You a Merry Christmas,” Victoria Monet adds this question as a final verse:

Yes, I’m so done with 2020
I think we’ve all been through plenty
Can we just have a Merry Christmas
And a Happy New Year?

Of course, the question it raises is what would make for a “happy” year ahead. One definition of happy is, “characterized by or indicative of pleasure, contentment, or joy.” Looking back, 2020 was not a happy year for many reasons, not the least of which is the ongoing pandemic.

Agatha Christie once wrote that one “sees things better afterwards than at the time.”* I wonder how we will look back at this period in our lives and how our perspective might change.

I am struck by two things, however, as I consider the question of what would make for a happy year ahead.

First of all is the question of what makes for joy, the deeper form of happiness. In Philippians 4:4-7 Paul writes of our call to joy (New Living Translation):

Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice! Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon. Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

Paul ties our joy to our caring for others, our hope in the return of Jesus, our petitioning God for our day-to-day needs, and our thankfulness for what the Lord has already done. These are the ingredients that release the greatest joy. It is noteworthy that they are not tied to our circumstances. Indeed, Paul wrote this epistle while chained in prison.

Secondly, a truly happy new year would include watching many come (or return) to faith in Jesus. The pandemic has been a severe mercy. It has highlighted our mortality, our deep need for community, our sad divisions, the plight of the poor, and the illusion that we can have life under control. All of these are pointers to our need for Jesus. The happiest of years would be founded in true revival, seeing many non-Christians come to faith in Jesus. At the same time, we who believe would have our minds and hearts revived to focus on the love of Jesus and the advancement of his kingdom locally, nationally, and around the world.

Let us pray and work for such a happy new year.


*From Agatha Christie’s short story: At the “Bells and Motley”

“Are you pretending that we can solve the mystery where Scotland Yard failed?” he asked sharply.

The other made a characteristic gesture. “Why not? Time has passed. Three months. That makes a difference.”

“That is a curious idea of yours,” said Mr. Satterthwaite slowly. “That one sees things better afterwards than at the time.”

“The longer the time that has elapsed, the more things fall into proportion. One sees them in their true relationship to one another.”