We seem to fascinated by calendars. We just saw people all over the world believing that the Mayan calendar denoted the end of the world. Just few years ago, we saw all sorts of reactions to Y2000. A thousand years ago, people got all in a tizzy about Y1000. I've gotten several emails about how certain combinations of dates have cosmic significance--even though it is a common characteristic of the calendar we use. Our calendar, which has developed over centuries to give a better and better correlation to the seasonal changes, is not the only possible one. When I asked at the Post Office for Christmas stamps, they were out, and the best they could offer (other than designs that I had no interest at all in) was the Chinese New Year stamp with a very classy dragon design. (If you're into celebrating New Year holidays, this one comes up on Jan 23 this year.) The Islamic calendar, used by a whole lot of people in the world, is a lunar calendar that is not synchronized with the seasons, and the holidays crawl around the year. The Hebrew calendar, also based on the changes in the moon's appearance, adds another month every few years to keep it tracking with the seasons; the Jewish New Year celebration, Rosh Hashona, starts at sunset on our September 4, 2013.
We read in Genesis that God created the sun and the moon with a consistent pattern of day and night, phases on the moon, and a cycle of seasonal weather. We find Moses being given a commandment to the Israelites in Numbers 10:10, to make celebrations and sacrifices on the time the new moon is sighted, and plantings, harvests, and major festivals are organized around a calendar based on the lunar months. It would seem that God built in cycles of renewals and reminders. Each year brings new fruits, new births, renewals of life. He called His people to new places and new understandings.
The traditional church calendar begins the year with Advent, which heralds the biggest New Thing that God has done in human history. It is interesting that this includes the winter solstice, when in our half of the planet, the daylight hours stop diminishing and the day becomes longer, leading into a season when God's creation brings out new life. This applies to His people as well: the point of Jesus' coming is described by St Paul: If anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come; the old has gone, the new is here. All this from God, who reconciled us to Himself, and gave us the ministry of reconciliation. (2 Corinthians 5:17-18).
Our best New Year's Resolution? But one thing I do:forgetting what lies behind, and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize for the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:13-14)