A new year message from Rev. Ian McLachlan

AND so 2012 has started. As you read this message, it is only a few days old. I wonder how many of the New Year resolutions that you made on Sunday are still being kept and how many of them have already gone by the wayside? When we want to make improvements to our lives, most of us like to start them from a significant date. And that is why January 1 is usually a good day on which to start a new regime – such as cutting down on your calorie intake, or taking regular exercise, or making sure that you always tidy up as you go along. However, it is often sadly the case that, while we start off the New Year with the best of intentions, it often does not take us long before we slip back into our old ways again. What is particularly interesting is what we do after that happens. Do we just give up? Or do we start to keep our New Year resolutions all over again?

I wonder what you thought on Saturday night when the two hands of your clock moved nearer and nearer to the 12. Did you look forward to this new year of 2012 with optimism? Or did you think to yourself: “Well, from all that we have been hearing lately this year might be even worse than the last one.”

I have always believed that it is important in life to have a basically optimistic outlook; to believe that things can get better in the future than they have been in the past; that there will always be good things that will happen to you. Of course, at the same time, one has to be realistic and accept that actually no-one’s life is all “a bed of roses”. Even those people who seem to lead charmed lives do have their disappointments and their off days. I have always believed, however, that it is important to look forward to the good times and to deal as best we can with the not so good times.

I have long thought that many of the so-called experts have been predicting doom and gloom so much that it is putting everyone in a rather pessimistic frame of mind – which really does not help any of us. It can also end up very much as a self-fulfilling prophecy. It is certainly a lot better if we feel optimistic about the future rather than negative. Negativity tends to breed even more negativity, in my opinion. While it can at times be rather misguided to have unrealistic expectations, at the same time I feel that it can be less than helpful to have no high expectations at all.

The reality is that, for most of us, 2012 will be a year of mixed fortunes … as, indeed, 2011 has been. As has been the case for probably every year that we have lived so far. Often what is most important is how we deal with the difficult times of our lives. But for most of us there have been far more positives in our lives than negatives. I think that, sadly, we don’t remember to thank God nearly often enough for all the good things that we enjoy during any given day or week.

There used to be a popular chorus sung by Christians called “Count your blessings, name them one by one”. In other words, it was a song that said we should thank God each day for all the good things that we had enjoyed. I think that if we concentrate on all the good things that we enjoy and that we have, then we will perhaps feel better about ourselves and about our lives.

Of course we can hope that things will get better in the future. But for that to happen we should also remember that it depends on how much effort people are going to put into making it a reality. It is very easy to complain that more needs to be done to make things better. But how much are we prepared to do ourselves to make things better? How active are we going to be to ensure that our community is the best that it can possibly be?

Perhaps one resolution that we could all consider making is deciding that we will participate more in our community. So perhaps – if you have time – you could offer your services to some local charity or community group?

And instead of complaining that you have not got enough to do, perhaps you might consider setting up a new group yourself. It is always easier to criticise other people and what you feel that they could be doing, rather than doing something positive yourself.

Many people down through the years have made a real difference by devoting a few hours a week to helping other people. Indeed, most people find that when they start trying to make things better for other people, then a side-effect of that is that they feel so much better about themselves too.

Often we help ourselves the most when we help other people first.

I hope that 2012 is a good and fulfilling year for all of you.