Haven’t written to you since you were married, so I thought a New Year’s greeting would be in order. Will you please past his letter on to your younger cousins after you have read it; I’m getting too old (I can remember when bread was five cents a loaf and haircuts were twenty-five cents!) to write so many letters that each one of my grandchildren would get a personal note.
You noticed that I greeted you with that familiar “Happy New Year.” You’ve probably said that many times today as you greeted your fellow saints at church this morning. Tomorrow you will again repeat that phrase as you greet your neighbors and your fellow-workers. I wonder if you really mean it! Just what does “Happy New Year” mean? You say, “That’s easy; I mean that I am wishing my friends, neighbors, and fellows a whole year of happiness.” Well now, that sounds admirable. But what does the word “happy” mean? Just what are you wishing for your friends? the same thing in each case, whether it be a fellow-saint or fellow-worker who may not be a Christian? Shall we go to the dictionary to learn its meaning? Yes, your gramps did too, but not until after he went to the Bible and consulted the Holy Scriptures which were given to us to make us wise.
First then, grandchildren all, let us see what the Bible means by that word. The original Hebrew word in the Old Testament that is translated “happy” in our English language has two different meanings; and the one has three forms. Twenty-seven times it means “blessed” and seventeen times it is “happy.” We find the English word “happy” twenty times in the O.T., and six times in the N.T. The Greek word in the N.T. has two meanings, and they, like the Hebrew, mean both “happy” and “blessed.” In almost every instance it means that those who are blessed are happy. O.K. so far?
Now we are ready to look it up in the dictionary. There we find it has four meanings. It speaks of being glad, delighted, pleased; and one meaning is “to be favored by fortune, fortunate, lucky.”
Now you can see why I like the Biblical meaning better when we use that word in our greetings to our fellow-saints. If one is sure the addressee is a Christian, one can use the term “Happy New Year” freely. That is why I started my letter that way. I wish you all the happiness in the world that is possible in Christ Jesus from Whom all blessings flow. The Scriptures tell us that we receive all the benefits of Christ through faith. Those benefits do give happiness for they include justification, sanctification and eternal life! What more could one wish for his grandchildren, or his family, his friends, his fellow-saints, his neighbor and his Christian fellow-worker! Probably our New Year’s greeting could be used more meaningfully (that’s a longy!) if we would say, “Blessed New Year.” Then we would not be suggesting any of that Websterian “lucky” in our greeting. But I have no “hang up” on that score. I always think of that “happy” in Psalm 144:15, “Happy is that people whose God is the Lord.” And with that thought I close.
Happy New Year, Gramps
P.S. Dearest Marcia-who-is-just-six-years-old: (See Nov., 1975 Beacon Lights, “Mommy’s At Work”) I read your letter and it made me very sad. Your Mommy did not learn such ill behavior in our house, when she was six years old for we always made much of our children’s birthdays. But, of course, your grandma did not work out – she stayed home with the children! On your seventh birthday we will have you over to our house for a real cookie-baking-celebration! It’s a date!