“Happy New Year!” We say it to friends or people we meet but don’t know. Hopefully we mean it. We wish good things for those around us and vocalize that wish in a brief, frequently used phrase. It is not a bad thing, but like many other common things it can become trite. How do we avoid this very real possibility? Perhaps one good and positive thing that can come from our celebration of the Christmas and New Year holidays is a reexamination and reevaluation of our more common language, including the way we greet and say goodby to others. Greetings and farewells are largely a matter of habit. They role off our tongues and escape our lips with little involvement of our minds. “How ya doin'”, how’s it goin'”, “hey”, “what’s up” are all simply ways of saying “hello”. We do not usually want to know how someone is or what is happening in their lives. “See ya later”, “take care”, and others are ways of saying goodby. Only the strictest linguist and a few others would know that goodby is a shortened form of God bless you or more literally God be with you. These examples serve to remind us that language is important and that words mean things. In a day when language is used casually, flippantly, and even irreverently, this is important to remember. Those who follow Christ, of all people, should take what they say seriously. Our Lord has commanded us to let our “yes be yes and your no be no” and warned us that we will be justified or condemned by what we say. James warns us of the grave and frightening responsibility of the tongue and commands us to take its use seriously.
If you are still reading, you may be thinking of two questions. The first: “Is this man overdoing it a bit regarding the mere use of words?” The second: “What does this have to do with the New Year?” To the first I say that if words are of primary importance to our Lord, they ought to be no less important to us. We must think about what we say. Our words must be guided by the Scriptures and the Spirit not just in the way we speak of and to others but simply in the way we speak. Our words speak volumes about us and more importantly about our view of God. May the New Year see us using the wisdom of Christ in our speech and giving evidence of our reverence for Him.
To the second question I give this challenge. On the heals of this joyous season, let us be reminded of what it means to genuine bless others. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year should be more than traditional greetings and farewells, as pleasant as they may be. Let us embrace the opportunity to truly wish for and pray for the blessing and grace of Christ upon those God brings into our lives. Let us pray and search for Godly wisdom to turn these holidays into genuine holy days and seek His help in communicating the reality of Christ.
We often hear it said at Christmas, “It’s the thought that counts.” As we say goodby to the old year and embrace the new, may our words and actions betray the holy thoughts and motives of those who love the Lord our God with all our hearts and our neighbors as ourselves.