Happy New Year!
Today is New Year’s Day. After the celebrations of ‘Hogmanay’ yesterday evening (Scottish for ‘New Year’s Eve’), when friends and family get together, ending with the bells at midnight (although in reality these days it is usually fireworks), with parties continuing long into the night. Some “first footing” still occurs (to be the first foot in a house after midnight) but Scots will continue to greet people with “Happy New Year!” and a hug throughout this coming week.
It is said that for around 400 years, Christmas was virtually banned in Scotland because the Kirk portrayed it as Popish and a Catholic feast. Hogmanay came to be the time of celebration and the exchange of gifts. Although Christmas is firmly in the Scottish calendar today, Hogmanay remains the huge celebration throughout the country.
As we have been reading in Exodus, God gave Israel a new year, too! The month that they left Egypt was to be the beginning of months for them, with the tenth day of that month being the special day of Passover.
The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, “This month is to be your beginning of months; it will be your first month of the year. Tell the whole community of Israel, ‘In the tenth day of this month they each must take a lamb for themselves according to their families – a lamb for each household…You must care for it until the fourteenth day of this month, and then the whole community of Israel will kill it around sundown…They will eat the meat the same night; they will eat it roasted over the fire with bread made without yeast and with bitter herbs…This is how you are to eat it –- dressed to travel, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. You are to eat it in haste. It is the Lord’s Passover” (Exodus 12:1-11 NET)
As we read on we find that this day was to be a memorial and it was to be celebrated as a festival to the Lord. This was so that they remembered that they were God’s people because God had delivered them from Egyptian slavery.
Just before Jesus died, during a Passover celebration, he took the unleavened bread, which reminded the Jews of the haste in their leaving Egypt, and the wine, and gave them a new significance.
“While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after giving thanks he broke it, gave it to his disciples, and said, ‘Take, eat, this is my body.’ And after taking the cup and giving thanks, he gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you, for this is my blood, the blood of the covenant, that is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins’” (Matthew 26:26-28).
Rather than remember God passing over the people, these were now to remind followers of Jesus of his death, burial, and resurrection for our forgiveness. Rather than being an annual reminder we find that the first Christians did this each week when they came together (Acts 20:7).
Part of the Scottish celebration of Hogmanay is to clear out anything lingering from the old year, make a clean break, and welcome the young, new year on a happy note. This makes a good time to take stock of our lives and make a clean break with practices we should not be part of and resolve to live a new life. We were given a new life when we put on Jesus in baptism.
During 2016 let us resolve to live our lives taking Jesus as our example (1 Peter 2:21-23). “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be the honour both now and on that eternal day” (2 Peter 3:18).
Readings for next week:
4 January – Matthew 1
5 January – Matthew 2-3
6 January – Matthew 4
7 January – Matthew 5:1-26
8 January – Matthew 5:27-48