The Paper January 2014
A New Year’s Revelation
We have passed another milestone in time – it is now 2014. Every twelve months we commemorate a “New Year” – but what is a year? Astronomically it is “the period between successive returns of the sun” – that is, the period it takes the Earth to revolve around the sun. A “year” is a measure of time – it can start at any time, but we choose to start our New Year on 1 January. This is a feature of the Gregorian calendar which we now use. Historically it has not always been the same, with the New Year at times in the past having started on 25 March in many countries.
For us (from an Australian European heritage perspective) the date of the New Year changed in 1752 when the United Kingdom also changed from a Julian to a Gregorian calendar, and added 11 days to align the date with the relative position of the sun. September 2nd 1752 was followed by September 14th 1752, although the days of the week retained their sequence. The Gregorian calendar allowed for small adjustments each 4 years – with a Leap Year adding 29th February, but further compensating for over adjustment by century years not being Leap Years (with the exception of Millennium years).
Some calendars have measured time by the moon (a month being the time it takes the moon to revolve around the Earth) – but under that arrangement years needed to be made of different lengths to align with agricultural cycles so that periods of the year related to repeatable events. Some calendars included a combination of the moon and the sun. Obvious events such as longest and shortest days, and equinox days can be observed, and we want to link them to particular fixed dates. People often wonder why Easter is not a fixed date, but it is linked back to phases of the moon - Easter Sunday is the first Sunday after the first full moon after the March equinox – which made sense when it was established, but this is not a fixed time by the sun based calendar.
Maybe we (personally) don’t really know how to measure a year in an astronomical sense, but to help establish an annual cycle, Nature has introduced a sequence of seasons - summer, autumn, winter and spring then back to summer again - so this is as good a basis as any on which to base our calendar. Whilst the equinoxes continue occur on 20th March and 22-23rd September we can know our calendar is on track!
So what is 2014? Most of us would be aware of the AD symbol – Anno Domino - or in the year of our Lord – that is generally accepted as years since the birth of Jesus that we remember at Christmas. The purists have tried to change the emphasis in now calling it the CE – Christian Era – but it still points back to the historical event that happened around 2014 years ago.
We have just been through the Christmas season, and as the New Year starts I would like to recap on the key icons that we may have considered over that period:
The Manger – we would all be familiar with the Manger scene, but what it really symbolises is humility. To those who wish to see the event as “a story” there is the message about how great things can come from small beginnings. To Christians, who believe, it shows how God who we believe created and owns the Universe allowed His Son to be born in such a humble situation. He could have been born in any generation, in any location, in any situation, but was born in a stable among the animals.
The Shepherds – are a reminder that the best things of life can’t be bought with money; shepherds were very low in the socio-economic order but were able to believe and accept the great events of eternity. It is not money or material wealth that gives us happiness, but an inward peace and being in accord with the world around us.
The Angels –make us think about the possible existence of a non-physical world that may be around us. Most people, at some time or another, experience something in their lives that make them think that there is a dimension beyond our physical experiences. People who believe hear the Angels singing throughout their life as they place their faith and trust in the God who created the World we live in as well as the World we cannot experience with our physical senses.
The Baby – the “Saviour” coming as a baby is a statement to all that the desirable attributes of life have to be developed. Behaviour patterns which show Christian traits such as love, joy and peace are not purchased as fully grown “plants”, but rather are acquired as seeds which must be grown, nurtured and shared to come to maturity. So too peace between friends, groups and nations must start with respect and be developed through growing positive relationships.
The Wise Men – show us that we need to develop a Vision in our own lives if our lives are to have purpose and meaning. If we don’t have a vision, we don’t know where we are going, or when we have arrived! For Christians the vision remains in believing the Message brought through the teachings of the grown Bethlehem baby, and in seeking to follow the life-style He taught. For many Christians there is also a reality in the hope that He has promised to return to this Earth and transform it into a place in which all Nations will know and follow Truth.
Socially we accept the turn of the year as being a time when we think about a “new start”. We talk about making New Year’s Resolutions to change things that we are not happy with in our routine of life. The lessons from Christmas apply universally to all people at all times. However to those who accept that the events actually happened, they represent a revelation from a Great Creator to those in our World who are looking for answers and reasons for life.
The New Year is an opportunity to think about a new start – if you have not thought about the interwoven relationship between the events of the past, the impact they have on the present, and the potential effect on the future, now might be a good time to do so. For those who have thought about it, but not seriously, now might be a good time to think again. Those who have done so should be reaping the rewards of the fruit of the seeds which are growing to maturity in their lives.
We would like to invite you to visit us, or a Church in your local Community, to reflect on how the annual cycles of our society have developed, and how they offer an opportunity for us to recognise and engage with the covert issues of life which can reveal a further dimension to our existence. See Church Notices in this Paper for times of Meetings at the Christian Israelite Church at 196 Campbell Street – we have been there since 1853 meeting the needs of people in a changing society.
Rodney Gray – Pastor Christian Israelite Church, 196 Campbell Street, Sydney (www.cichurch.com )