The end of 08


My last commute before 09 today. It was uneventful. Which is probably a good thing.

The passing from one year to another is, I think, something Christians aren’t sure how to do. There are those who hold alcohol-free parties, or church-based vigils, but both smack of secular custom appropriated and made more boring.

In Jewish custom the new year, Rosh Hashanah, is the culmination of a whole month of self-examination. The day itself is started by a trumpet call to awaken people from their “slumber”, and in the afternoon people symbolically throw off their sins. It marks the new year for people and for legal contracts. It is in the world and of it.

But the Christian church, for whom the Gregorian calendar is as much a part of the heritage as protestant/catholic rivalry and an Arian Jesus, doesn’t seem to have taken the concept of an annual rebirth and celebration of old to new into their doctrine.

Again, this is probably a good thing. No doubt if there were such a celebration, it would become as stale and rote – consistently reimagined by emergent groups and unjaded clergy – as other elements of liturgy have over time.

However, the alternative is wondering who might kiss you at midnight or devising ‘resolutions’ whose inspiration is generally negative and their achievement is more so. Neither contributes to a life that is ‘telos’, that is complete.

Socrates said that the unexamined life is not worth living. Jewish tradition also recognises a need to reflect and respond. The close of one year and venture into another is a natural time to take stock of yourself and your life. It is, perhaps, one of those times in the year when the Kingdom of God can shine through the chinks in society’s armour. It is a time when optimism can flourish in the face of possibility, or at the very least others can encourage this to be so.

By the time I am back on my morning train I will have seen in a new year (and a new baby Jesus). And I hope that I will have found some time to self-examine, to awaken and perhaps to throw off some sins.


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