Many traditions have been established around the celebration of the new year, as well as many superstitions. For example, making resolutions is a New Year’s Day tradition, and eating black-eyed peas for good luck is a superstition. Christian communities also have their traditions regarding the new year. Many African American churches hold Watchnight Services that begin around 10:00 p.m. on December 31st and last through midnight on January 1st. They incorporate the celebration of slaves being emancipated. Watchnight Services originated with the founder of Methodism, John Wesley. Services celebrating the new year in The United Methodist Church are called Covenant Renewal services and often take place on the first Sunday of the new year. Both the Watchnight and Covenant Renewal services provide opportunities for confession and promises to submit oneself to God’s will. Believers trust that God will be present with them in the coming year regardless of the events that may occur.
A not so Happy New Year
A very different attitude was held in the ancient world. Their gods were untrustworthy and unpredictable. One never knew when he or she might incur the wrath of one of the gods. As a result of this fear of wrath, the present-day tradition of making resolutions for the new year began in the ancient world as a bargaining tool with the gods. The new year was not a cause for celebration nor a time to anticipate the days ahead with joy, hope, and faith. Instead, any celebration was for the sake of pleasing the capricious gods who were incapable of being pleased.
Resolve to do good and celebrate life
Although Christians participate in New Year’s Day celebrations that have origins of ancient tradition and superstition, we celebrate a new year in which we face challenges with hope while seeking new opportunities to do good and celebrate life. Our God is true, faithful, just, and merciful. We do not have to be frightened of God nor bargain with God. God will be with us, working for our good each day of the new year.
Question of the day: What are your feelings about the beginning of a new year?
Focal scriptures: Romans 8:35-39; Galatians 6:9-10; Psalm 63:3-4
For a complete lesson on this topic visit LinC.