Posted by: rcottrill | January 31, 2019

Another Year Is Dawning

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Words: Frances Ridley Havergal (b. Dec. 14, 1836; d. June 3, 1879)
Music: Aurelia, by Samuel Sebastian Wesley (b. Aug. 14, 1810; d. Apr. 19, 1876)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (for another article see here)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: Frances Havergal was a brilliant woman, and deeply spiritual. Though she only lived into her forties, her many hymns have had a lasting impact on the church. Samuel Wesley, the composer of this excellent tune, was the grandson of hymn writer Charles Wesley. We use Aurelia also for The Church’s One Foundation.

It’s a day like any other day. January first. Yet we mark it as the beginning of a new year. Why? Why not start in September, when holiday time ends for many and we get back to work? Or what about beginning the year in March, with the start of spring? That’s what they did in ancient Rome, until 45 BC.

In 45 BC, Roman emperor Julius Caesar, commissioned the creation of the Julian calendar. And in that pre-Christian era, the first day of January was dedicated to Janus, their god of gateways and beginnings–for whom the month itself is also named. It became the “gateway” to the new year. Another improved calendar was designed in 1582. Commissioned by Pope Gregory XIII, the Gregorian calendar, is the one we use today, and it retains the starting point of January 1st.

Though that calendar is recognized the world over, various cultures and religious traditions put the celebration of a new year in different places. Chinese New Year begins on the new moon that appears between January 21 and February 20. And the Jewish festival of Rosh Hashana (meaning head of the year) is held on the first (also sometimes the second) day of Tishri (in our September).

And do you remember the anxiety over “Y2K,” when the calendar was about to click over from 1999 to 2000. Computers were using only two digits to note the year. So, did that mean they would go from 99 to 00? Year zero? What would that do to other computer calculations? Some predicted all the world’s computers would fail, and it would bring the end of the world. But programs were upgraded in time and there were very few problems.

That’s the history of it. But even though there’s no scientific basis for January 1st being the beginning of a new year, the tradition is deeply ingrained. Therefore it’s appropriate for us–especially those who are Christians–to reflect upon what it means to our spiritual lives.

It’s interesting that the god Janus for whom January was named is depicted as having two faces, one looking back and one ahead. And at the start of a new calendar year, we can look back on the year that’s past, and how the Lord has blessed us. As David the psalmist says, “You crown the year with Your goodness, and Your paths drip with abundance” (Ps. 65:11). We can do what Johnson Oatman’s gospel song calls us to:

Count your blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

Then, there is the need to look ahead. The difficulty there is that none of us knows with certainty what the new year will bring. We need to make our plans. The Lord Jesus assures us that is wise. “Which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it?” (Lk. 14:28-30). But on the other hand, we are warned,

“Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit;’ whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow….Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that’” (Jas. 4:13-15).

What we can do about what’s ahead, and should do, is pray. Pray for wisdom and daily grace. Pray that we may effectively serve the Lord in the coming year. And hymn writer Frances Havergal has given us a wonderful prayer hymn  on that theme.

CH-1) Another year is dawning, dear Father, let it be
In working or in waiting, another year with Thee.
Another year of progress, another year of praise,
Another year of proving Thy presence all the days.

CH-2) Another year of mercies, of faithfulness and grace,
Another year of gladness in the shining of Thy face;
Another year of leaning upon Thy loving breast;
Another year of trusting, of quiet, happy rest.

CH-3) Another year of service, of witness for Thy love,
Another year of training for holier work above.
Another year is dawning, dear Father, let it be
On earth, or else in heaven, another year for Thee.

Questions:
1) What was the most challenging thing you faced in the past year?

2) What was the greatest blessing you enjoyed in the past year?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (for another article see here)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org


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