Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Meaning of New Year Celebration

A summary of the New Year message given at St. George Orthodox Church, Mukhathala, Kollam

Today the world is giving farewell to 2013 and welcoming 2014, and here we are participating in the celebration. Let us ask two questions about this celebration: Why do we celebrate New Year? How should we celebrate it?

We have various celebrations, and we classify them into several groups based on who celebrate them.  The most important celebration we all have in our individual lives is our birthday celebration. Each time we celebrate our birthday, we celebrate our successfully passing one year. Living our life is a challenge, and we celebrate the passing of each year like a milestone in a journey. Survival is more challenging in our young age and in our old age, so our birthday celebrations are more meaningful and important when we are young and old. We have various celebrations as a family. We celebrate the birth of new babies, weddings, wedding anniversaries, memorial of those who have passed away etc. As a parish we have celebrations such as parish day, anniversaries of various organizations etc. As church we have our church day, memorial of our saints,  etc. Celebrations like Christmas and Easter are celebrated by the entire Christian community in the world. Onam is a celebration of all Malayaalees. As Indians we celebrate days like Indian Independence day and the memorial days of our national heroes. New year is a celebration of the whole world. All people in the world participate in this celebration.

We need to ask the question "why" about every celebration we celebrate. Otherwise they become meaningless for us. Especially children need to ask the grownups the meaning of every celebration. Let us ask this question about New Year. Why do we celebrate this?

I think the New Year celebration is actually a birthday celebration. It is the birthday of the world. On each new year day, the world becomes a year older. Well, if you ask how old the world is now, we may not be able to give a correct answer. All we know is that the world becomes a year older on each New Year day. Survival is a challenge for the world as well. Each day of the year our world faces numerous challenges. There could be natural calamities or man-made ones that make survival difficult for the world. In spite of all these challenges, our world keeps moving on, and on each New Year day we celebrate the birthday of our world.

Now that we have answered the first question, let us move on to the second one: How should we celebrate the New Year? Just like we express our joy and gratitude on our birthday by throwing a party, we express our joy on the new year day by fireworks and by this kind of parties. Expression of joy is of course one way to celebrate New Year. There is another meaningful thing we can do on a New Year day.

Like a birthday, the New Year day is like a milestone in our journey of life, and so it gives us another opportunity to look backward and also forward. The first month of a year, January, has a very meaningful name. January was named after a Roman god called Janus. This god had two faces-- one forward and one backward. This tells us that January is a time to look back and evaluate our past year, and also look forward to make planning and resolutions. 

We may do this not only as individuals, but also as communities. In our individual lives, we might have had failures in the past year. Now we have this opportunity to make a fresh start. We can do this with our families. Can we decide to make a better family life for ourselves in the coming year?

We can also decide this about our parish, which is really a family of families. We have all kinds of people in our community. We don't have the same strengths. We vary in our strengths and weaknesses. Some of us are alone, but we don't feel lonely in this community. Some of us are without children but no one feels childless in this community. Some  of us are without parents, but we don't feel orphans. We are all family members to each other. On this new year day we can make a resolution to improve our relationship to each other and create a better community life. We need to think of how we become a closer family in 2014. I want to let you know that I feel proud of our parish. My pride rised even higher when I watched the Christmas Eve program put up by the young people in our parish. The interest our young people take in the church life is exemplary.

Our Malankara church needs to find out how we can be better witnesses to Christ in India.  As Malayalees we may feel proud of the fact that  according to a recent report, Kerala is among the most developed states in India. But Kerala remain backward in several areas such as safety for women, the condition of  our roads, and disposing waste.

We also need to make a resolution for our nation as well as for the whole world, for really this day is like a birthday of the world. Being a part of the world, we may do what we can do to create a better world in the coming year. Looking back to 2013, our hearts felt warmth hearing the news of the new Pope. He gives the world some hope. He does and says things that we have never seen in other world leaders. More people have started going to church in Europe and America because of this new pope. Let us earnestly pray that God give that kind of committed Christ-like leaders to our world.

In 2013 we gave farewell to the Mahatma of Africa-- Nelson Mandela. Oh! what a heroic life his was. He truly showed Christ to his generation by suffering and by providing such leadership to his people. He was another Moses that liberated his people from slavery.

Recently an assembly of the World Council of Churches was held in Korea, and they elected a new central committee moderator, who is a black woman from Africa-- Dr Agnes Abuom. Gone are the days when the west dominated the world! Gone are the days when masculinity dominated! A woman of black color is the chairperson of the central committee of the world council of the churches. Let us thank God for having such changes in our world. Let us continue to wish and pray that our world become the Kingdom of God in every sense of the term.

Thus let us together celebrate the birthday of our world by making resolutions for the new year. May you all have a very joyful and blessed new year!


Jessey George said...

its amazing how you brought out the topic of new year celebration and a need for change in our church/society and personal lives..

Jomon said...

Read in one go, It seems you are spending a lot of time in our church.. Certainly our youth will be benefitted....

God Bless...

susan said...

I agree John, and it is high time that the church involved itself in people's lives beyond just the worship. Worship and sacraments transform only if approached with the right attitude.
Now that you are in Kerala, you must be aware of the Malayali attitude of throwing out the household waste on the road and empty plots belonging probably to an NRI who cannot visit the place frequently. One day my sister found a plastic cover full of household waste, food scraps, paper, vegetable , fish fins etc. in front of her gate. She opened it and searching, found an envelope with an address. Surprisingly it was that of a fashionable and well-off member of her parish, living near by. She rang them and reprimanded the lady but she said that she did not throw it, but had just asked her part- time house maid to throw it somewhere on her way home. Which is worse?
Even after 2000 years of worship, how much is our Christianity worth? Are we living witnesses except for pomp and show?
Basic civic sense and consideration of one's neighbour is the minimum that we can do.

Jaise Joseph said...

The New Year celebration now a day has been perverted into boozing parties, night-out dancing, fire crackers and all sorts’ wrong doings. It has now become a million dollar market. It is in hands of a profit oriented society and is using it as money making Day. Here we really need to ask the question, “Do we need a particular day to take the vows which is going to give positive thrust to us”? As per my opinion we must think in terms of every previous day, not just the previous year, and we must look into our mistakes and correct it in the next day. In this sense I will say every day must be is like a new year. The way our Church is celebrating the New Year is really an example to all world, the Koodosh Itho, Sanctification of Church. It is a fact that very few are taking that day seriously and are following the Church is instructing. I believe this can be redefined for a Society for the New Year as per the Gregorian calendar, like The New Year is for Sanctifying the Society.

If you are interested to spend a little time, please go through a Poem I have wrote about New Year in my blog. It is in Malayalam. Find it at http://jaisejoseph152.blogspot.in/2014/01/blog-post.html