Dear family of Mt Hermon, a Blessed New Year!
When we hear the word “blessed”, the Christian mind is inevitably cast to the Beatitudes, where Jesus gives a series of seven proclamations, each beginning with “Blessed are you…!” But when we examine the categories of people whom Jesus proclaims blessed, we come across something surprising, for the poor, the hungry, the mourning and the persecuted are included in that list. These are not the typical sorts of people whom the world regards as blessed! It reveals the idea that the kingdom of God is upside-down to the world. Our values are so different, so counter-cultural, that what the world would see as unfortunate, Jesus proclaims as blessed.
It is a reminder then, as we wish each other a blessed new year, to live out the new year in a manner that God regards as blessed.
Here are the Beatitudes from Matthew 5:2-11.
And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons[a] of God.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
The enduring temptation in 2024 is to assume the mindset of the world and its definition of what it means to blessed. Invariably, to the world, blessedness involves amassing possessions for self-sufficiency rather than being poor in spirit and recognising your dependence upon God. It would be exacting revenge against our enemies rather than being merciful and forgiving. It would be asserting power over others and getting our way, rather than meekly considering the interests of others above our own.
What the world considers blessed, so often, is completely upside-down in the Kingdom of God. And though we are in the world, we are not of it. We are a people who have been delivered from the domain of darkness and transferred into the Kingdom of the Son.
We must, therefore, be intentional about resisting the temptation of the devil, the ‘wisdom’ of the world and the deceitfulness of our own hearts within us. And we do so by allowing the Word to be the light to our path and a lamp to our feet every step of the way in the new year. Practically, it means daily bible reading is indispensable if we are careful to not lose our bearings along the path of discipleship. Without the lamp, we lose our way in the darkness of the world. So let us commit to a discipline of Daily Bible Reading in 2024.
A quick search on the internet would yield an array of bible reading plans for our use. But as St Augustine discovered, the task is simply Tolle Lege - Take Up and Read!
Let’s do that this year, and walk as children of the light, guided each step of the way by the true Light who has come into the world.
Ps Luwin Wong