I am told that the celebration of New Years is the oldest of all holidays. It supposedly goes back to 4000 B.C. and ancient Babylon. And apparently the tradition of making New Year’s resolutions goes back to 153 B.C. when the head of the mythical king of Rome, Janus was printed on a calendar with two faces. He was looking back on past events and forward toward the future.
Lots of traditions have grown up surrounding that holiday. Many cultures believed that things in the shape of a ring brought good luck. I vote with the Dutch who thought that eating donuts on New Year’s Day would bring good fortune!
Another tradition is the singing of “Auld Lang Syne” written at least partially by the Scottish poet Robert Burns. The title literally means “old long ago” or more simply, “the good old days.” It is not surprising that we mumble through just the first two verses, because the third verse says: “We twa hae run aboot the braes and pou’d the gowans fine, we’ve wander’d moy a weary foot Sin auld lang syne.”
For most of us though, New Year’s is a time to scribble down some new commitments. When you think about it, turn-of-the-year resolutions are generally not as important as goals but more important that wishes. They usually are more like “I hope sos”. Maybe it would help us this year if we used some biblical terms to help us refocus for the New Year.
Our bible uses terms like “oaths” and “vows” to convey important resolutions. In I Samuel 1:11, Hannah makes a vow to return her child back to the service of the Lord if He would just allow her to conceive. Jacob, praying for God’s protection, vows in Genesis 28 to give generously and serve the Lord with fervor. And the Nazarites (see Numbers 6 for details.) publically displayed their vows to the Lord by not cutting their hair. Everywhere they went; it was instantly obvious that they were a group set aside for the service of Yahweh.
New Testament believers also need to be “set aside” (sanctified) in their service of the Lord. As we think about making resolutions this week, let’s consider making a real vow to the Lord. Identify an area of your life that needs some spiritual attention. It may be something to stop or maybe something to start. Take it to the Him in prayer and then commit to a change.
And remember, God delights in forgiving our sin when we confess it (I John 1:9) and He graciously supports fresh starts. So let’s start the New Year off right with this resolve:
“But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released (from the Law) so that we serve in the new way…” (Romans 7:6)