This new year begins us an interesting conjunction of dates. Today, a day typically thought of as a secular holiday comes right alongside an acknowledged Christian holy day. I speak of New Year’s and the Feast of the Epiphany.
People tend to celebrate New Year’s in a rather worldly way. They drink, usually more than they should, and frequently gather to watch something drop at midnight: in New York it’s a ball; in Miami it’s an Orange; in Bangor, Maine it’s a sardine. There are many such examples. When the new year arrives people traditionally look for someone to kiss, while others propose marriage. The new year is felt to offer new hope and people make resolutions to change their lives. We tend to think of New Year’s as a secular holiday, but it actually marks a Christian milestone.
On the eighth day from His birth, Mary and Joseph had Jesus circumcised according to the law God had given His people through Moses. On this day, Jesus entered into the covenant of the Jews. One could argue that this eighth day from December 25th, January 1st, is the day that Jesus became the king of the Jews.
In the ancient world, events were often dated according to the reigns of the kings in power. For instance, the Romans would have once referred to 20 B.C. as “the eighth year of the reign of Emperor Augustus.” [One Gospel records that John the Baptist’s preaching began “in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar.” – Luke 3:1] Today, we date our years according to the reign of our king, Jesus Christ, the King of kings.
The abbreviation “B.C.” means Before Christ. “A.D.” doesn’t mean After Death, as some people suppose. (If it did, where would be the other 30 years of Jesus’ life?) “A.D.” is a Latin phrase, Anno Domini, which means In the Year of Our Lord. We call this new year of ours 2011 A.D., or the 2011th year of our Lord’s reign.
Whether they know it or not, when the world celebrates New Year’s they are really anticipating and celebrating the reign of a King who has already come. They raise their eyes up to see something descend — they look for the One who descended from Heaven. They long for an passionate love and an unending intoxication — the Bridegroom has come with the Holy Spirit of joy. They resolve to change into better people — the Christ who calls us to change and empowers us to do it has already come.
Two thousand years ago, the world did not realize that the Christ had been born, but the Magi, the “Great Ones,” knew. With devotion like the Magi, let us journey and draw near to Jesus. In your prayer, let the infant Jesus grab your finger and watch Him smile at you. In finding Jesus’ parents, the Magi found the Lord. Draw closer to Mary and Joseph, for they are already your friends and they lead whoever comes closer to them to their Son. In this 2011th year of his reign, let us rejoice in our King, Jesus Christ, and resolve to love Him more deeply.