Thursday, December 31, 2009


New Years, the oldest of all celebrations, began in Babylon 4000 years ago. However, the western cultures didn’t follow suit until only 400 years ago. The early Church condemned the festivities as pagan even into the Middle Ages. Shouldn’t we, as followers of Jesus, pay attention to this? What is the history of new year celebrations?

• Recognized as the season of rebirth, the Babylonian New Year began at the spring equinox.
o Most important of all festivals; it lasted 11 days and included acts of worship such as purification, sacrifice, propitiation, penance, absolution and extravagant colorful processions.
o This magical worship was offered in order to obtain favors from the gods. The greater the appeal, the greater the sacrifice, even to the point of human sacrifice [2 Kings 3:26-27].
o Sacrifices included wine which involved drunkenness and lascivious activity.
o Resolutions were made in order to appease their gods, believing that they would be blessed if the promise was kept and cursed if it was not.
o The culmination was the sacred-marriage ceremony between the god Marduk and godess Ishtar.
• Practiced in ancient Canaan and Syria, these same festivities found their way to Greece and finally to Rome.
• For various reason, Roman emperors kept tinkering with the calender until at last, January 1 was accepted as the “New Year!”

Many of these pagan practices are perpetuated in
New Year’s festivals today!
But what if we “Christianize” them;
doesn’t that make our participation acceptable?
The unchanging Creator of this universe does not compromise.
He tells His people,
“You must not worship the LORD your God in their way.”
What pagans do and how they go about doing it
is detestable to Him [Deut. 12:31]!

God not only rebukes His people for following the festivals of paganism, He warns that He will punish those who do [Hosea 2:11, 13]. He speaks specifically about making resolutions to Him and then breaking them. He refers to these broken promises as “sacrifices of fools” [Ecc. 5:2-7].

When the Lord says to the Israelites, “… Go and serve your idols, every one of you! But afterward you will surely listen to me and no longer profane my holy name with your gifts and idols” [Ezek. 20:39], He seems to be saying, "Be pagan if you insist; but quit calling it ‘Christian!’

One of Jesus’ final orders to His disciples was, “teach all nations to observe all things I have commanded you…” [Matt 28:20]. Jesus does not command His followers to observe any religious festivals. Instead, He is to be recognized as the fulfillment of the ceremonial laws, including the celebrations of the Israelites [Col. 2:16-17].

Like the Babylonians, many people attempt to wipe their slate clean by making promises and sacrifices. However, Mattie D. Babcock speaks rightly when she says, “…Christian character [is not made] at the New Year. The workshop of character is everyday life. The uneventful and common place hour is where the battle is lost or won.”

Sin can only be abolished through Jesus, who makes all things new. In His economy, every day is a fresh start. He wipes the slate clean every morning and fills us afresh with His precious Spirit in order that we might manifest His love to a world which desperately needs it.

Why dabble in pagan practices when you can enjoy the blessings of a new year, in Jesus, one day at a time!


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