Times Square in New York City. Seconds before midnight on December 31. A giant ball drops to usher in the New Year. Thousands are on-site. Millions watch the scene on TV.
What’s so special about a ball dropping in Times Square the moment the new year dawns? As Tevye, the “fiddler on the roof,” might say, it’s Tradition. Is it anything more?
All a Part of God’s Story
Drift back to grade school when you memorized your country’s long line of presidents or prime ministers. In Christian schools children also learned about the good and bad kings of Israel and Judah. So many names so hard to pronounce and even harder to spell! Why learn all that stuff? What practical good is it! Is it all just tradition?
No, it’s also history. Learning the names of kings, prime ministers, or presidents and reliving the milestone of a new year each January 1 marks the timeline of life of which we—and our ancestors—are all a part. It’s more than tradition. It’s a record of the past and history in the making.
People in Reformed branches of Christianity take this seriously. We are people who see God’s Word through the insights of S.G. De Graaf in Promise and Deliverance, through Ray Vander Laan’s historical-biblical video series That the World May Know, and much more. We know that this stuff called history—even the ball dropping on New Year’s Eve—is all a part of the story of God’s unfolding plan for life.
Milestones and Worship
Many Reformed Christians celebrate the advancing steps of God’s plan by gathering for worship on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. We find worship more fulfilling than dropping a ball. We find it more significant than learning the hard names of history. It’s our way of saying how much we appreciate God’s being Lord of the milestones of life. Rather than dropping the ball that may symbolize the hollowness of our culture, we run with the ball of worship as we honor the God of our daily lives.
This year the calendar coincides well with our worship. Churches that gather on Saturday evenings can automatically have a New Year’s Eve Service. Christians around the world who worship on Sunday will automatically have a New Year’s Day service on January 1, 2006. May we all catch a glimpse of the significance of worship as the New Year dawns. May we also grow in the desire to carry it on into other years, no matter what days our holidays fall on.
As people who cherish the way God works through time in his world and in our lives, we celebrate with joy the God of history—especially as we mark the passing and beginning of another year. A deep sense of God’s providential presence drew our spiritual leaders in times past to encourage us to worship on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day; they even etched these celebrations into our Church Order (see Article 51b).
So let’s rejoice that the calendar calls the worldwide church to join us in celebrative worship this New Year. And let’s do it again each year because we are people for whom God’s plan is precious, people who cherish each chapter in God’s redemption story.
The Psalms offer some great opportunities for families and/or friends to enrich their New Year’s festivities with meaningful reflection and prayer.
Reading Psalm 9 together on New Year’s Eve allows us to reflect together on how God has remained our “dwelling place,” despite all that’s happened to us–good and bad–during the year. Those gathered can take some time to share those experiences.
Then reading Psalm 91 on New Year’s Day lets us look at the year ahead with the deep reassurance that God’s sheltering wings will enfold us through all that lies ahead. We can mention our fears and hopes in the sure conviction that God will use all that lies ahead to show us salvation (v.16).
Other great Psalms to read together as the year changes include Psalm 84, 92, 121, and 103. And those are just for starters…