It’s tradition at this time of year to wish each other a very Happy New Year. So let me begin by doing so. I trust that 2020 will be a good one. As you may know 2020 has another meaning as it is regularly used for perfect eyesight. Clear vision and happiness are two wonderful qualities and when you have them together a great gift.
What about happiness; what is it that we are wishing for each other when we say these words? For some it may be simply a greeting. For others, a genuine wish that those we greet really will enjoy a good and trouble free year. Eleanor Roosevelt famously said “Happiness is not a goal...it's a by-product of a life well lived.” As we enter this New Year what might lives well that look like?
Christmas is past, the latest must have present truly unwrapped, the parties over: what’s next? For many January can prove a difficult month. The days remain dark and the winter weather set in. Someone worked out that the 21st January, labelled Blue Monday is the all time low. It is the day the credit card bill arrives. The transient happiness of the festive season can disappear. More lasting happiness requires travelling well, a kind of 2020 vision. May I suggest three things.
Hope and hopefulness can make a big difference. As a diocese we are looking forward to the arrival of our new Bishop, Richard Jackson.We are certainly hopeful and trust he is too. We have a new government and although it is early days there is space for hope. Our world is full of challenges and not least the environmental crisis. As a diocese we have become a eco diocese. It is a hopeful choice.
Contentment is surely another ingredient. A few years ago, we lived close to the sea. On the 28th December each year we developed a custom of going to the beach all wrapped up, buying fish and chips and sitting out and eating them as a family. It came to be one of the best things. Simple? Yes. Happiness was in being together and enjoying the moment.
Thankfulness is the third quality that comes to mind. Oprah Winfrey said: “Be thankful for what you have; you'll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don't have, you will never ever have enough.”There is a spiritual discipline in this kind of happiness by recognising that life itself is a gift from God. Learning, as St Paul wrote, the secret of being content in any and every situation and giving thanks. It is a process. It promises a happiness rooted in hope, contentment, thankfulness and ultimately in God himself.