New Year’s Day is spent by many adults, and all too many minors, getting over the late night partying and hangovers that New Year’s Eve seems to require of them. What a terrible way to start the New Year! New beginnings are really helpful to us. It does seem that we need some way to cast off the burden of the past and gather strength for a better future and God gives us a way to do this through the measurement of time.
The Bible begins with a beginning: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth…” Time itself had a beginning, for God created time and is “above” or outside of time, being timeless. In Jude 24 we read the doxology: “to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.” As creatures, however, we are created and have our being in time. For God, it is always the beginning, ever new, but for us time progresses and the burden of it weighs upon us. Therefore, in the Creation Story, God set an example of dividing time into intervals of seven days – a week. That week and all subsequent weeks has a beginning – “And there was evening and there was morning - the first day.” In the Old Testament the last day of the week was set aside as holy and as a day of rest. In the New Testament, however, it is the first day of the week that is given a special emphasis for on that day Christ arose from the dead and appeared to the disciples. (Matthew 28:1; Mark 16:2; Luke 24:1; John 20:1) In a symbolic sense, the Old Testament Sabbath underscores the ending of a period of time; in fact, it is the ending of the Old Testament itself that is figured in the seventh day Sabbath. The New Testament or Covenant is one not of endings but beginnings and its day is the first day of the week on which Christians have met for worship since Christ first appeared to His disciples after His resurrection. (Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:2)
In addition to days of the week, God also introduced a system of monthly and yearly beginnings. When He was preparing the Children of Israel to escape out of Egypt God gave them a new beginning of the year: “Now the Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, ‘This month shall be the beginning of months for you; it is to be the first month of the year to you.’” (Exodus 12:1-2) This first month of the year in the Hebrew calendar was called “Abib” or “Nisan” and corresponds to a period on our calendar of about the second half of March and the first half of April. On the fourteenth of this month the Day of Passover was to be celebrated, followed by a week-long celebration called the Feast of Unleavened Bread. This was the annual memorial of their deliverance from the bondage of Egypt. God made sure that it happened in the first month of the calendar by making the calendar begin in that month. In the New Testament, Jesus died the day after He celebrated the Passover with His disciples and arose on the third day following, which happened to be the first day, or beginning, of the week. Do you see a pattern here? These pivotal events in God’s plan of salvation were planned by God to occur in the first month of the year and on the first day of the week following the Passover. God is emphasizing a new beginning for the human race.
We need new beginnings. Every morning when we arise a new day awaits us. Every first day of the week a whole new week opens before us. Each first day of a new month offers us a fresh start. Every first day of the year a whole new year beckons us forward. How shall we use these renewals of our precious time on earth? Those who devote New Year’s Eve to drunken or drugged revelry awake to the New Year with dulled wits, darkened minds and debauched sensibilities. They meet the New Year unprepared for it and must scramble to catch up, if ever they do. The Apostle Paul writes, “[S]o then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober. For those who sleep do their sleeping at night, and those who get drunk get drunk at night. But since we are of the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation.” (1 Thessalonians 5:6-8) All too many extend night into the day by having to sleep in half the first day of the New Year getting over the night before! That should not be true of those who follow Christ for we are “of the day” rather than of the night.
Here is a good recipe for new beginnings: start each day with at least some time given to worship, prayer and reading the Scriptures. Start each new week by gathering together with God’s children to worship God and discover His will. In the Old Testament, they followed a lunar year so that each new month began with the new moon and such days were set aside for special times of worship. We have “monthly meeting” in our church which, while it does not begin on the first of the month still it offers another chance to gather strength as we review the “accountability questions” and seek God’s mind together. Finally, on the First Day of the New Year, why not devote some time to rest, spiritual renewal and looking forward in hope for the coming year? - James Healton