What’s The Big Deal About The New Year?

Kevin’s Lesson For Sunday January 2 –

New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day mark a special time for most of us each year.  It is more than a date, it is a cultural phenomenon observed across many countries.   An article in Psychology Today describes it this way:

There are hundreds of good-luck rituals woven among New Year celebrations, also practiced in the name of exercising a little control over fate. The Dutch, for whom the circle is a symbol of success, eat donuts. Greeks bake special Vassilopitta cake with a coin inside, bestowing good luck in the coming year on whoever finds it in his or her slice. Fireworks on New Year’s Eve started in China millennia ago as a way to chase off evil spirits. The Japanese hold New Year’s Bonenkai, or “forget-the-year parties,” to bid farewell to the problems and concerns of the past year and prepare for a better new one. Disagreements and misunderstandings between people are supposed to be resolved, and grudges set aside. In a New Year’s ritual for many cultures, houses are scrubbed to sweep out the bad vibes and make room for better ones

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/how-risky-is-it-really/201312/why-we-really-celebrate-new-years-day

The New Year’s Day we observe marks the first day of the first month of the Gregorian calendar.  The Bible doesn’t follow that calendar, nor does it attach the same importance to the beginning of the year (New Year’s Day).  There are at least three Old Testament references and events mentioned regarding the beginning of a new year.

First, the Passover memorial is described as occurring at the beginning of the year (even though we now think of it occurring in the Spring). 

The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, “This month shall be for you the beginning of months. It shall be the first month of the year for you. Tell all the congregation of Israel that on the tenth day of this month every man shall take a lamb according to their fathers’ houses, a lamb for a household. And if the household is too small for a lamb, then he and his nearest neighbor shall take according to the number of persons; according to what each can eat you shall make your count for the lamb. Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male a year old. You may take it from the sheep or from the goats, and you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month, when the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill their lambs at twilight. (Exodus 12:1-6).

Second, Jewish people today recognize Rosh Hananah as the beginning of the Jewish New Year.  It is derived from the Feast of the Trumpets in Leviticus 23:23-25:

And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 24 “Speak to the people of Israel, saying, In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall observe a day of solemn rest, a memorial proclaimed with blast of trumpets, a holy convocation. 25 You shall not do any ordinary work, and you shall present a food offering to the Lord.”

Wikipedia describes Rosh Hashanah this way. 

Rosh Hashanah (Hebrew: רֹאשׁ הַשָּׁנָה‎ Rōʾš hašŠānā), literally meaning “head [of] the year”, is the Jewish New Year. The biblical name for this holiday is Yom Teruah (יוֹם תְּרוּעָה‎ Yōm Tərūʿā), literally “day of shouting or blasting.” It is the first of the Jewish High Holy Days (יָמִים נוֹרָאִים‎ Yāmīm Nōrāʾīm. “Days of Awe”), as specified by Leviticus 23:23–25, that occur in the late summer/early autumn of the Northern Hemisphere.

Rosh Hashanah is a two-day observance and celebration that begins on the first day of Tishrei, which is the seventh month of the ecclesiastical year. In contrast to the ecclesiastical lunar new year on the first day of the first month Nisan, the spring Passover month which marks Israel’s exodus from Egypt, Rosh Hashanah marks the beginning of the civil year, according to the teachings of Judaism, and is the traditional anniversary of the creation of Adam and Eve, the first man and woman according to the Hebrew Bible, as well as the initiation of humanity’s role in God’s world.

Rosh Hashanah this year is September 25-27, 2022.

Third, Ezekiel 40:1 speaks of the beginning of a new year when Ezekiel spoke to the people 25 years into their Babylonian captivity.

            In the twenty-fifth year of our exile, at the beginning of the year, on the tenth day of the month, in the fourteenth year after the city was struck down, on that very day, the hand of the Lord was upon me, and he brought me to the city.[a] In visions of God he brought me to the land of Israel, and set me down on a very high mountain, on which was a structure like a city to the south. When he brought me there, behold, there was a man whose appearance was like bronze, with a linen cord and a measuring reed in his hand. And he was standing in the gateway. And the man said to me, “Son of man, look with your eyes, and hear with your ears, and set your heart upon all that I shall show you, for you were brought here in order that I might show it to you. Declare all that you see to the house of Israel.”

Ezekiel spends the balance of the chapter describing his vision of the new temple.  

            I am not sure exactly what we can learn about the beginning of a new year from these three example but a few points come to mind. 

As to the first example, Exodus 12:14 describes the Passover feast as a perpetual memorial day.  “This day shall be for you a memorial day, and you shall keep it as a feast to the Lord; throughout your generations, as a statute forever, you shall keep it as a feast.”  

For 2022 – what do you want to perpetually keep at top of mind? 

In the second example, Rosh Hashanah, apples dipped in honey are eaten as an example of hope for a sweet new year. It is the New Year for people, animals, and legal contracts.  Most importantly, Rosh Hashanah commemorates the creation and humanity of man.

For 2022 – what will you do to remember to be respectful of and to remember others?

In the third example, Ezekiel gives a detailed picture of the temple that was to be built when the people left Babylonian captivity.  This was accomplished in 515 BC, following Cyrus freeing the people from captivity and Nehemiah encouraging the temple be rebuilt.

For 2022 – we won’t build a physical church, but what will you to do build the church?

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