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Justice and peace embrace

Songwriters sometimes have a refreshing way of telling us what we already know. In today’s reading, there is a powerful theme of the virtues which are needed for a really happy life. But the songwriter, the psalmist, puts them in a dramatic way which gives them a lift.

The virtues have been around for a long time. The psalm was probably written long before Aristotle or Confucius. But just because something is old does not mean that it is irrelevant.

Recently, scientists have been re-discovering the virtues and an international study suggests some core virtues exist across many cultures: wisdom, courage, humanity, justice, temperance, and transcendence.

Scientists are even suggesting something that we have known for a long time: that living the virtues can bring you happiness. To be virtuous is not boring, but really living.

So when we go back thousands of years to listen to the psalmists, the songwriters of an ancient era, we are listening to something that is really true today. Happiness comes from living a virtuous life.

The psalmist even has a pictorial way of expressing the virtues, joining together, embracing, springing up from the earth, pouring down from the heavens. That really is appropriate to the Spring Festival. The Festival celebrates the ancient cycle of the seasons and the hope of productivity in the coming spring.

The psalmist is celebrating growth, too, but is not just celebrating the crops. The psalmist is celebrating a life where the Lord indeed brings us the harvest, in a society rich with virtue as its fruit.

If you go to the bookshops, you will find a wave of self-improvement books. They are especially popular in the mainland. Even authors long out of fashion in Hong Kong are selling well to mainland youngsters.

But there are fads and fashions. We need to look deeper, for what is constant. We don’t want just another fad. The constant message of the bible is that real happiness, real joy, can be found.

It is not the absence of suffering and indeed you can be happy even when your situation is not good. Happiness is not just for those who have many possessions: indeed the poor in spirit are especially blessed.

Happiness is not just for young, healthy people. It is also for people with special needs, the sick or aged. Happiness is for all.

The virtues may be known by slightly different names over the centuries, but love and loyalty, justice and peace are understood around the world, in every culture.

So we can pray for each other and use the ancient poetic images. We can pray for the fullest of blessings in the coming year. We can pray for love and loyalty to walk in our streets and our homes, bringing smiles and laughter to all whom they meet.


We can pray for justice and peace to embrace in our city, in a great hug that includes all our people, as well as the strangers among us.