As we enter 2022, Covid is still present and hampering the holiday celebrations that we are used to seeing. We wonder how long it will be until the world might return to normal. It is like a joke I once read that said, “Do you remember when we used to eat a cake after someone blew all over it? Yeah, crazy times!” How our world has changed. What does the New Year mean in consideration of how our world is ever becoming someplace very different from the world we grew up in?
As I pondered this another thought came to my mind. How did Jesus celebrate a New Year? Was the new Year celebrated at all? What do you think? Well, the answer is yes, but life was predictably different.
First, the time of our New Year was set by Julius Caesar in 46BC to honor the pagan god Janus. Janus is portrayed with two faces, one looking to the past and the other looking to the future. Janus was the god of gates and doors between what was and what might yet be. Therefore, people would pray to Janus for change and new possibilities to enter their lives. Also, I would guess the New Year was set in the cold moments of winter when the days where at their shortest and beginning to lengthen out once more. This would have seemed like the start of a new cycle.
Obviously, this was far from Jesus’ tradition and habits. Indeed, from a Biblical point of view this was not the New Year at all. One website puts it this way: “Our new year begins on January 1, but for the nation of Israel, the new year began in the autumn. It began in the month of Tishri, the first month of the civil calendar and the seventh month of the religious calendar.
Leviticus 23:24-25 (reads) Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, In the seventh month, in the first day of the month, shall ye have a sabbath, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, an holy convocation…
Jewish tradition claims that this is the anniversary of the creation of Adam and Eve. The biblical name for the day of the Jewish New Year is Yom Teruah, which literally means day of shouting or raising a noise. Yom Teruah begins the fall festival of the Feast of Trumpets and it is a High Holy Day. This day is more commonly called Rosh Hashanah, which literally means, ‘head of the year.'”
Therefore, this is when Jesus would have celebrated the New Year, with blowing trumpets, a religious service, and a sabbath rest. The New Year bashes in the dead of winter probably did not take place in Jesus’ life. That our traditions draw from a more secular foundation is not necessarily wrong. After all, if we study the question, we will probably discover that Jesus was not really born in December, but this is when we celebrate Christmas. Still perhaps the difference should cause us to pause and consider how we should greet the New Year. Scripturally we are advised to enter the New Year with a moment of prayer as well as celebration. We are to journey to a new day with consideration of both the past and future as being a blessing from God who created all things. We are to find within tomorrow the moments needed for caring for others and connecting with those around us. God wants us to consider how we can honor him in the breaking of a New Year and each new day. Perhaps if we do take our moments to give God the credit for the beauty of each day, and live in the knowledge that we are blessed, our tomorrows may bring us a better future, and a return to good living away from the illness and diseases with which we find ourselves overburdened. Tomorrow is hopeful when our hope is in Christ.
Shalom for a New Year,
Pastor Russell Logston