Dear Friends of Penn Central Conference -
“So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!” (2 Corinthians 5:17 NRSV)
New Year’s Day is unique. There is no other day of our year that serves as such a gate between the old and the new. Ask most individuals and you will find that they have plans for their new year – resolutions, projects, goals, or deadlines for important decisions. The celebration of a New Year is considered a universal practice – which is quite rare in human society – and we use different dates and traditions in the celebration. Usually some sort of display is required, such as fireworks, or dance rituals, or special activities that serve to sweep away old spirits, habits, concerns, grudges, and failures.
Psychologists agree that the desire for a New Year celebration is largely about control. The need for recognition of the day stems from our desire to exert control over our world, which explains why we set so many resolutions, even though over 80% of us don’t follow them! In some cultures the New Year’s celebration is an open acknowledgement of our desire to escape death – to recognize that we have “made it” another year and escaped the grim reaper.
The idea of a new start is attractive for many of us. A variety of religious traditions celebrate the New Year by letting go of grudges, making amends, increasing prayers, or returning items borrowed from neighbors. Something in these rituals satisfies our desire for balance and for spiritual reconciliation.
Western Christianity celebrates the New Year as set by the Gregorian calendar (based on the one established by Rome), which established January 1
as the beginning of the year. Meanwhile in Judaism and Islam the New Year is celebrated on different days, having been established deep within their scriptures and traditions. However, Christian perspective vary on the celebration these days. But the time and date is not in question. Instead some Christian groups shun the celebration because of its pagan roots or the tendency to engage in questionable moral practices, such as exuberant alcohol consumption!
Still, the experience of a fresh start can be both liberating and humbling. The Christian is offered this opportunity on a daily basis, since our regeneration in Christ has already happened and we live into new life on a daily basis. We have been redeemed and yet we experience regeneration continually when we live in communion with the Holy Spirit. Unlike secular celebrations of the New Year, our sense of newness can stay with us daily through the passage of time.
May this New Year be one of blessing and refreshment in our new life in Christ!