“The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: Speak to the people of Israel, saying: In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall observe a day of complete rest, a holy convocation commemorated with trumpet blasts. You shall not work at your occupations; and you shall present the Lord’s offering by fire.” ~ Leviticus 23:23-25

A blessed New Year to you, dear Bethesda! Have you ever noticed the Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah) occurs in September? But that isn’t even the first month of their calendar. It’s the seventh, the month of Tishri, the most important month of the Jewish calendar. A quick look at this special month could give us some direction for celebrating our own New Year.

1st of Tishri – The Feast of Trumpets (Rosh Hashanah or Yom Teruah). The Jews celebrate the new year on the new moon of the seventh month, seven being the holy, perfect number. The festival calls for sabbath rest, trumpet blasts, and offerings by fire (see the scripture above). Sounds to me like we can combine trumpets and offerings-by-fire into something exciting. Let’s call it fireworks! And for sabbath rest, I suggest lots of college football.

10th of Tishri – The Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur). Get the year started right by getting right with the Lord. It takes twelve months to produce a new year, but thankfully God’s mercies are new every day. The Good News of Jesus is always good and always new. A new year is a popular time to take stock of life and introduce changes. As Christians, we give thanks that the most significant and eternal changes are not produced by our resolutions but the resolute faithfulness of Christ for us.

15th of Tishri – The Feast of Booths (Sukkoth). This great Fall harvest festival looks back to the Israelites dwelling in the desert during the Exodus from Egypt and is celebrated by dwelling in makeshift tents or tabernacles for a week. Even today, Jewish families might camp out or at least take their meals outside. During this festival the people of God remember what is behind them, where God has brought them, and how God promises to lead them on. In the age of COVID, this feast might remind us of the dislocating changes so many people are facing. Even in temporary dwellings and fragile circumstances, God will bring the harvest and lead his people home.

We don’t know how 2021 will fare compared to 2020. Every year brings its own set of challenges. I pray that our lives in this new year might involve
celebratory blowouts, atoning words of Christ’s grace, and courageous faith in the midst of temporary changes to daily life.

You are in my heart and prayers, Bethesda.

Pr. Tom