When the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, so that we might receive adoption to sonship (Galatians 4:4-5).
By all appearances, Christmas and New Year’s would seem to have nothing in common. Christmas, at least for most Americans, looks like opening festively wrapped presents beside a tree decorated with bright lights and ornaments. It involves singing about snow, Santa, reindeer, the manger, the angels, the shepherds, and the Wise Men. New Year’s, on the other hand, typically looks like postponing sleep to enjoy raucous parties and nostalgic ceremonies, such as watching the ball drop in Times Square. While the Christmas tree may be present for both, Christmas and New Year’s differ drastically in terms of atmosphere, sounds, and traditions.
Nevertheless, in the providence of God, Christmas and New Year’s fall within close proximity to each other. To be sure, diverse historical contingencies contributed to our Gregorian calendar and its placement of Christmas on December 25. Yet the Scriptures show us time and time again how the Sovereign Lord of the universe commandeers the warp and woof of history to accomplish His ultimate purposes. Consequently, it would be a mistake on our part to overlook the relationship between Christmas and New Year’s.
As Paul reminded the Galatians, we measure time by Christ’s life. The time designations BC (“Before Christ”) and AD (Anno Domini=“Year of Our Lord”) hold a sacred significance for Christians—the secularizing trend toward using BCE (“Before the Common Era”) and CE (“Common Era”) notwithstanding. Unlike many other cultures, both ancient and modern, we don’t measure time by leaders or events (e.g. “In the eighth year of so and so’s reign…” or “In the tenth year since the battle of such and such…”). On the contrary, we believe time must be counted, weighed, and determined by Immanuel’s entrance into our finite sphere of existence. The world is qualitatively different because at just the right moment “God sent his son, born of a woman, born under the law,” for us and for our salvation.
So, what does Christmas have to do with New Year’s? Although we celebrate them in different ways, the two holidays enable us to approach the future with hope. Because Christ has come into our world, we need not hear the ever-ticking clock of time with despair and cynicism. That sound signifies another moment, another year, lived “in the year of our Lord.” Christmas shows us who holds the future—and the New Year—in His hands.
May we, therefore, approach 2018 joyfully and hopefully. Happy New Year!