R4E130807 – New Year’s Day (Special Days Seasonal Study Lesson) by Douglas Jacoby
Differing dates observed for new year’s celebration
- Asian cultures
- Chinese New Year: Usually 20 Jan to 20 Feb. This means those born in the very beginning of a year belong to the previous Chinese year.
- Hindu – 13 or 14 April.
- Islamic – rotates because Muslims follow a lunar calendar (~354 days).
- Ancient world
- Babylon: Lunar calendar – first new moon after vernal equinox.
- Egyptians: Changed to a solar calendar before 4000 BC! Calendars are most useful when they can be used to make accurate predictions (e.g. flooding of Nile).
- Ancient Rome: Julian calendar), 15 March until 153 BC, then 1 January. January: Janus – 2 faces.
- Christian world
- England: 25 March in England until 1752. Feast of Annunciation, date obtained by working backwards 9 months from 25 December. Changed by act of Parliament (1750). 11 days were cut out of September 1752.
- Orthodox world: Some Eastern Orthodox celebrate 14 January as start of New Year. Other Greek Orthodox have the start of the religious year in the autumn (September).
New Year’s Day in the Bible
- Celebrations nothing like modern (worldly) partying at the new year.
- Two days:
- Religious calendar: Spring celebration (Exodus 12:2).
- Civil calendar: Autumn celebration (September) – Rosh Hashanah (Exodus 23:16, Leviticus 23:24-25).
- One more factor making chronology problematic is that regnal years were observed.
- Even better: the new Sabbath and Jubilee years! These new year days inaugurated days of release of servants, cancellation of debts, etc (Leviticus 25).
Biblical reflections on New Year’s Resolutions
- The world really misses the mark when it comes to New Year’s Day! A time for introspection: “Days of Awe” between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. This should be a holy time, not a wild bash of pagan revelry.
- Resolutions are fine, but we need to make sure our yes is yes! (Psalm 15, Matthew 5, James 5)
- Fewer is better than more.
- Follow-up or accountability is essential.
- Resolutions should be God-focused, not self-focused.
- Losing weight, saving money, becoming happy — these are examples of self-directed goals. They may glorify god, but identical aims are pursued by non-believers every new year!
- Seeking God’s face, reading through his word, fasting, taking a week or two to preach overseas or serve the poor — why not make these sorts of resolutions?
- We are called to be faithful stewards of what the Lord has given us, including our time. Every day counts, every week, every year (Ephesians 5:16)!