WHEN DOES THE NEW YEAR REALLY BEGIN?
Have you ever wondered why the first day of January is always referred to as New Years Day? What is so new about it? If you could view the earth turning from outer space and saw the North and South American continents moving to the right on December 31st when they reappeared twelve hours later coming back into view from the left, would you expect there to be anything new? Apparently, over time so much emphasis has been placed on beginning a new year with resolutions that it has almost become a magical moment when the crystal ball drops in New York City’s Times Square, the people all over set off fireworks in celebration.
But on the morning of New Year’s Day, what has really changed? What could you look at that wasn’t there before because it came with the new year? In reality, all that’s new is the number you must now write indicating what year this new year is. But how could this earth that scientists say has been around for billions of years, only have experienced 2019 New Years? Certainly, if we look at world history, we’ll find that there were hundreds of years that came and went before we started numbering them on our calender’s. For our Jewish neighbors, it will be the year 5780. So what happened to get us so far behind?
I’m sure most of you know that Julius Caesar introduced a calendar in 46 B.C. It became known as the Julian Calendar. So if we were following that calendar we would be celebrating the year 2065. But in 1582, Pope Gregory XIII introduced his Gregorian calendar because he wanted to change the date that the church celebrated Easter. Since the Julian Calendar miscalculated the length of the solar year by 11 minutes, the calendar had since fallen out of sync with the seasons. This concerned Gregory because it meant that Easter, traditionally observed on March 21, fell further away from the spring equinox with each passing year. But because the Gregorian calendar is still off by 26 seconds, and even with a leap year every four years, it will have to be readjusted again in the year 4909 when another day must be added to February to get it back in sync.
So, what was the starting point for the Gregorian calendar? Before the Gregorian calendar was adopted in England, they celebrated New Year’s day on March 25th, even though the Julian calendar started the year on January 1st. Pope Gregory appointed a man named Dionysius to arrange his new calendar for the sake of keeping Easter on the right date relative to when the sun stood directly above the equator on its way back to the north. So, according to the Gospel of Luke (3:1 & 3:23), Jesus was “about thirty years old” shortly after “the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar.” Tiberius became emperor in 14 AD. If you combine these numbers you reach a birth year for Jesus that is strikingly close to the beginning of our year reckoning. This may have been the basis for Dionysius’ calculations.
So you can see that it was all calculated to the year of Jesus’ birth. That gives us an excellent thought as it relates to our New Year. If you were to calculate from the year that Jesus was born in your heart making it possible for you to become a child of God, then each year since then would have been a new year for you. I doubt if all of you reading this were born again on January 1st. But there is no reason for us to tie our spiritual new year to the calendar.
So when you start thinking about what New Year’s resolutions you might be making this coming year, think of what you can do for Jesus, not what you can do for yourself. Let Him take care of your needs. Think about what He has been wanting to see in your life. Maybe He wants you to read the Bible more; witness about His saving grace to more people this coming year; start paying you tithes; get more involved in your church ministries, etc. But there is one resolution that all of us should make, and that is to give greater emphasis to what Jesus expects of us: And now I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.1 This is what I tell you to do: Love each other just as I have loved you.2 – Dr. Robert R Seyda
1 John 13:34
2 Ibid. 15:12