Out with the Old, On with the New
I have celebrated the New Year in different countries and in different ways. In Portugal, people would stay inside until midnight and then come outside for a bonfire upon which old things, worn out furniture, things that served as reminders of their detested past were publicly burned. As midnight on New Year's Eve approaches, to the sound of music and celebration, fireworks would be lit from these fires. It was a time for a new beginning. A clean slate. A fresh start.
Now I live in the United States in a home that borders the conservation land surrounding Walden Pond in Concord, Massachusetts. Years ago Henry David Thoreau wrote his famous journal "Walden" or "Life in the Woods" here while he lived for two years and two months alone in a cabin near the water. In that book he contemplates the need for simplicity and renewal and is inspired by the example of the Muclasse Indians who had an annual cleansing ritual: "Having previously provided themselves with new clothes, new pots, pans, and other household utensils and furniture, they collect all their worn out clothes and other despicable things, sweep and cleanse their houses, squares, and the whole town of their filth, which with all the remaining grain and other old provisions they cast together into one common heap, and consume it with fire."
"A three day fast follows and all the fire in the town is extinguished. During this fast they abstain from the gratification of every appetite and passion whatever. A general amnesty is proclaimed; all malefactors may return to their town."
"On the fourth morning, the high priest, by rubbing dry wood together, produces new fire in the public square, from whence every habitation in the town is supplied with the new and pure flame."
"They then feast on the new corn and fruits, and dance and sing for three days, and the four following days they receive visits and rejoice with their friends from neighboring towns who have in like manner purified and prepared themselves."
This ceremony reminds us of our need to have our old history 'in Adam', the root and fruit of our old sin nature, utterly consumed and dealt with. It also pictures our need for God's gift of a new beginning; the new and pure flame of His life within us.
From God's point of view our old sin nature cannot be converted. It must be crucified. God gave our old sin nature what it deserved at Calvary. Our old way of life was judged and put to death through Christ's substitutionary sacrifice on the cross. We must believe on the sufficiency of what He has done on our behalf to enter into the good of it. We owed God a debt we could not pay. Christ paid the debt He did not owe. God pushed the clear button on His calculator when His justice was satisfied by the perfect offering of His Son as a full payment for our sins and our debts were cancelled. On the basis of this redemptive work, He restores us to live in newness of life by imparting the gift of His indwelling Holy Spirit. This happens the moment we repent of our sins and trust Him as Savior and submit to Him as Lord.
Because we are crucified with Christ, we are no longer at sin's beck and call (Romans 6:6). The Apostle Paul talks about our need to live in the renewal of our hearts and minds (Romans 12:2; Ephesians 4:22-24): "You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness."
We can put away the wardrobe of our Adam nature. We won't be needing it. It does not fit our new humanity. We are new creations in Christ. And He has a whole new custom-made wardrobe for us. Check out the clothes He has picked out for you in the New Testament book of Colossians 3:12-14!
My rituals on New Year's day are less profound than the southern Europeans or Muclasse Indians. On New Year's Day I attempt to purge unnecessary papers from my office filing cabinets and prayerfully contemplate how I can best serve Christ in the new year. One year we took down old wallpaper and put up something new. None the less they serve as a reminder of the good news that with Christ each new day of each new year is a new beginning. Old things have passed away and behold, all things have become new.
Let's live with the heart and mind of true spiritual renewal.
In the newness of His fire,
David MacAdam, Pastor/Teacher
New Life Community Church