Of all the holidays we celebrate, New Year’s Day is probably the oldest. It is also a good time to stop and think about how we might find God.
Most historians believe the celebration of the New Year was first observed in ancient Babylon four thousand years ago. The celebration lasted eleven days, with different traditions observed on each day. The Babylonians considered the new year to begin in late March, at the vernal equinox, with the focus on looking ahead to new crops and new growth. Other ancient cultures used the fall equinox or winter solstice as the starting point.
Today New Year’s Day is a public holiday in many countries. January 1 became generally recognized as the beginning of the year in the 1500s, with the adoption of the Gregorian calendar. In the United States, the holiday is traditionally considered to be a time to take stock of one’s life and to make resolutions for the coming year.
Most people find it fun to anticipate new things for the year ahead, but King Solomon expressed a cynical view in Ecclesiastes 1:9-10. He compared the seasons and repetitive cycles in nature to people’s lives. Nothing happens that hasn’t happened before. No one can do anything that is really new.
“There is nothing new under the sun,” he wrote. “Can you say that anything is new? It has already been here long before us” (verse 9-10).
Solomon’s comments about the monotony of life underscored the message he wanted to convey in his book: true meaning can only be found in a personal relationship with God.
Although God is called the Ancient of Days, he delights in doing new things. When we place our faith in Christ, God makes us into a “new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17). We have a new nature and a new way of living. As we grow in our faith, God shows us new ways to use our gifts for him and reveals fresh insights from his Word. Someday He will give us a new home where we will live with Him forever.
New Year’s Day is a good time to think and plan for the year ahead. And if we live wisely, we will be able to find God in each day between now and December 31.
© Dianne Neal Matthews. This article was adapted from Dianne’s book, Drawing Closer to God: 365 Daily Meditations on Questions from Scripture (Baker Books, 2010). You can find out more about the history of the New Year at Infoplease.com.
Enjoy this funny video of kids expressing the most common New Year resolutions they most likely hear from the adults around them!