December 31st 2017: Reverend Dr. Gareth Edwards

Gareth Edwards Dec17

How should a believer celebrate the coming of a New Year?

We shouldn’t celebrate in the way others do – with drunken revelry. Is there a particular Christian way of marking the beginning of a new year?

The Jews of the Old Testament marked the beginning of a new year (which would be September in our calendar), in the following way:

‘And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “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. You shall not do any ordinary work, and you shall present a food offering to the LORD.”’ (Leviticus 23:23-25).

What we see in these verses is different to the drunken foolishness of New Year celebrations. For the Jews, the New Year was marked by the blowing of trumpets all day. What does it signify about our marking of the New Year?

  1. It is a day with God. ‘The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Make two silver trumpets. Of hammered work you shall make them, and you shall use them for summoning the congregation and for breaking camp. And when both are blown, all the congregation shall gather themselves to you at the entrance of the tent of meeting. But if they blow only one, then the chiefs, the heads of the tribes of Israel, shall gather themselves to you. When you blow an alarm, the camps that are on the east side shall set out. And when you blow an alarm the second time, the camps that are on the south side shall set out. An alarm is to be blown whenever they are to set out.”’ (Numbers 10:1-6).

Here, we can see Moses was commanded by God to make two silver trumpets. They had a dual purpose – to sound the alarm in times of danger, particularly in wanderings in the wilderness. The second purpose was to call the people together; one blast was to call the leaders to come to the tent of meeting, two blasts was to call the whole congregation of Israel together before the lord. It was a call to come and worship and offer up sacrifice. The sound of trumpets became synonymous with the voice of God.

There is an on-going call to start the year in the worship of God, to have a day of solemn rest, a holy occasion. No work is to be done, it is a Sabbath day, a day given over to God, to worship God.

So, for the Jews, it was a day to be spent in the presence of the worship of God. Start the year as you mean to go on. Get your priorities right from day one. The priority at the top of the list it to make it a year lived with God and for God. Give the worship of your life to God. Re-dedicate your life to Jesus Christ, your Saviour. Be determined to carry on.

The pattern of the Old Testament worship had a rhythm of worship that infiltrated every aspect of their lives. This should be true of you and I. We don’t follow the same rituals of temple worship, they merely pointed to Christ, to the anointed. But woven into every aspect of our lives must be the worship of the Lord. There is growing secularisation in our land. We are told we can worship, don’t allow this to infiltrate outside. Worship is not what happens in a particular building, but given over to our lives in everything we do every day. We offer ourselves, as Paul says, as a living sacrifice. There is to be a rhythm of worship in our lives, every day: prayer every day, the Word every day, Christ every day.

So how does the believer start a New Year? Start the New Year as he means to go on – worshipping the Lord with all his being, all he possesses, all his abilities, honouring Christ.

  1. The New Year is a day of joy, the Feast of Trumpets. It is a solemn day, but solemn doesn’t mean joyless. It was a day of joy, ‘On the day of your gladness also, and at your appointed feasts and at the beginnings of your months, you shall blow the trumpets over you burnt offerings and over the sacrifices of your peace offerings. They shall be a reminder of you before your God: I am the LORD your God.’ (Numbers 10:10). The sound of the trumpets is a sound of joy, ‘Blessed are the people who know the festal shout, who walk, O LORD, in the light of your face.’ (Psalm 89:15). This Feast of Trumpets began a season of joyful celebration and was quickly followed by two other important feasts; nine days later was the Day of Atonement and then the Feast of Tabernacles. These feasts were celebrations of the joy of salvation – that God would provide sacrifice that would take away their sins.

The Feast of Trumpets began a month of joyful celebrations of God’s goodness to His people. It there any greater joy than beginning the year with Jesus Christ as your Saviour? Is there anything you can add to that to mark the start of the New Year? There is nothing better than the knowledge that our Saviour died for us, granted us His righteousness so we are acceptable with God, knowing we are certain that through Christ we are eternally secure in the everlasting arms of our God. There is nothing that can bring more joy to the soul than that. By His suffering on the cross we begin every year in fellowship with God and with His people. So it’s with joy we mark the passing of the old year and the beginning of a New Year. There is joy of salvation in our hearts. We know that everything up to this point the Lord has provided for us He will continue to provide – every hour of every day through 2018 that God has ordained for us. The start to a New Year is a day of joy.

We are also told the Feast of Trumpets was also a memorial day, a memorial proclaimed with blasts of trumpets. A memorial is not just looking back and being thankful. In looking back in thankfulness we can look forward in anticipation of future blessings.

During this day of the Feast of Trumpets the law, the Torah, was publically read to remind the people of the covenant God had made with His people. The reading of the Torah reminded them how God had promised covenantal faithfulness, how God had committed Himself to them. As they looked back they saw How God had kept His covenant, even though there were many occasions when they had failed to keep the covenant. As they looked back so they looked forward knowing that covenantal grace would be there in the days ahead.

How thankful are you for God’s covenantal faithfulness? Have you thanked Him? God knows our hearts and minds, yet surely we need to express our thankfulness day by day. As we give our thankfulness so we can remind ourselves of His faithfulness. As we give our thanks to Him so we are encouraging ourselves to be confident in Him for all that is to come. Look back in thankfulness but forward in confidence – not confidence in ourselves but in assured confidence in the God of covenantal grace. We have confidence based on our experience of His grace in the past. He has never left or forsaken us. He is always true to His word and His promises.  He is immutable – He never changes. We change, He does not change. We may not be able to keep our promises but He does. There are no circumstances that can overtake Him. He knows the whole of history to come. There is nothing that can cause Him to fail in keeping His promises. He doesn’t change His mind. He is constant, consistent and never changes.

Remember all that is past and trust God for all that is to come.

How does a believer celebrate the New Year? Marking the passing of one year and the beginning of a New Year in the worship of God, in the joy of His blessings, knowing His covenantal faithfulness to us. We are the children of the living God, united in faith, assured of the love of our Father and the abundance of His grace. Worship and rejoice in His covenantal faithfulness. Let’s shout out the praise of our Lord.

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