Afresh I seek thee. Lead me
once more I pray—
Even should it be against my will, thy way.
Let me not feel thee foreign any hour,
Or shrink from thee as an estranged power.
Through doubt, through faith, through bliss, through stark dismay,
Through sunshine, wind, or snow, or fog, or shower,
Draw me to thee who art my only day.
— George MacDonald (Diary of an Old Soul)
I always loved New Year ’s Eve growing up. After supper on December 31st, my family would go to the church for a service. We would sing songs, and hear preaching, all leading up to the 11:30 altar call. At 11:30, we’d go to the front to “rededicate our lives to the Lord”. That way, we would all be able to “pray in the New Year” together.
In reality, all of us youth had our watch alarms set, so when the beeping started, we’d exchange excited glances at each other while pretending to pray fervently. We knew that the real celebrations were about to start. By 12:15, we were dismissed from the church and headed up to the Switzer’s home to go tubing down their hill. Life was good.
In spite of all the distraction and mixed motivations, there was something important in confessing sin, and starting a New Year with God.
. . .
In the Law that God gave Moses, there was no provision for a New Year’s celebration. It just wasn’t the priority that it seems to be now. However, God’s words to Ezekiel would change that:
In the first month, on the first day of the month . . . (v. 18, NRSV)
From here on in, the Israelites were to begin the year by consecrating the Temple and the altar with the sacrifice of a bull. And if we are now God’s Temple . . .
. . .
In this section of Ezekiel, God instructs his prophet on other ceremonies as well, such as the feast of Passover. Although that particular feast had been celebrated for centuries, God re-envisioned what it symbolized.
The original feast of Passover was intended to prevent God’s angel of wrath from destroying the firstborn in the house. This time, the feast is refocused to stress the holiness of the celebrant. In the original feast, the head of every house sacrificed a lamb. In the re-envisioned feast, the prince had the responsibility of leading the ceremony—and he provided a bull instead of a lamb.
The emphasis of these celebrations all line up. God wanted Israel to set aside regular times to consecrate their lives. In the modern church calendar we have lent, a forty day period where we reflect on the suffering of Jesus, and refocus our lives. It might be a good idea to claim some other times like New Year’s Eve to do some modern day re-consecration.
. . .
Lord God, thank you for cleansing me from my sins by the sacrifice of your Son. Help me to bring my life continually to you in prayer. In Jesus’ name, Amen.