Finding Happiness in the New Year
The most popular song to sing at the end of the old year and the beginning of the new is “Auld Lang Syne.” The Scottish poet Robert Burns was the first to publish it in 1796. He heard it sung by an old man in Scotland. It literally means, “old long since” and could be translated “times gone by.” Time does go by and the end of time thus draws closer. What are you doing to prepare for the end of time? If Heaven is where you wish to spend eternity, then what are you doing to be prepared?
Jesus tells us that Hell is a place prepared for the Devil and his angels (Matt. 25:41). In John 14:1-3, He tells His disciples that Heaven is a prepared place for those who love Him. He said, “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.”
People around the world are preparing for the New Year. In Japan, they have Bonenkai or “forget-the-year parties.” They forget the problems of the old year and hope to start afresh. On New Year’s Eve the gongs are struck 108 times to remove 108 kinds of human frailties. In your preparation for Heaven this year, we need to remove the failures of the past, not with the striking of a gong, but with repentance, confession, and prayer to God, so that we can be cleansed of all the sins of 2019. “But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us” (1 John 1:7-10).
The Spanish have the tradition of eating twelve grapes at midnight in hope of finding happiness in the New Year. We all know that happiness is not found by what you eat. However, all of us have found out that unhappiness comes from what is eating you. While Paul was in prison, he wrote to the Philippians, “Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice” (Phil. 4:4). Joy in the New Year comes by our faithful attitude not by our circumstances
In the Netherlands, old Christmas trees are gathered up and burned in the streets. The old is purged out by the fires and fireworks in order to welcome in the new. Similarly, Paul instructed the Ephesians “that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind“ (Eph. 4:22,23).
St. Basil’s cake is baked in Greece to be consumed on New Year’s Day. Placed inside the cake batter is a coin. Whoever finds the coin is exceptionally fortunate that year. Unless of course they choke to death on the coin while eating their cake. As Christians we do not need cakes or coins for a happy New Year. Yet, we can “come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16).
For the Chinese, the New Year falls on a different day each year because they base their calendar on the lunar and solar cycles. The fifteenth day of the New Year is called the Lantern Festival, which is celebrated at night with lantern exhibits and children conveying lanterns in a parade. Every day of the year, Christ’s disciples should let their lights shine in this dark world of sin so that God may be glorified. “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matt. 5:14-16).
In America, we have the thousand-pound ball that drops in New York’s Times Square, the Rose Bowl parade, football games and black-eyed peas. Although these traditions may be fine in and of themselves; the children of God know that this New Year may end before it ever begins. You see, the Lord may come. Therefore, we live every day prayerfully watching so as to be prepared when He comes.
A happy New Year comes for the saint who is ready for Heaven when the Lord returns, whether it be at 11:59 New Year’s Eve or before the end of 2020. While we wait we are preparing with confessing of our sins, removing the wickedness of the old man, rejoicing in the Lord always, and letting our light shine.
– Daniel R. Vess
In this final section of the epistle, James mentions several reasons for prayer. Some pray when suffering (5:13). Paul prayed three times for the removal of the thorn in the flesh which troubled him (2 Cor. 12:7-10). Jesus prayed in Gethsemane “when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death” (Heb. 5:7). Paul and Silas prayed in prison at Philippi, but they also sang.
Next is the prayer for the sick. This sickness can be physical or spiritual. They are to pray and anoint them with oil. “It is by no means certain that aleipho here…means ‘anoint’ in a ceremonial fashion rather than ‘rub’ as it commonly does in medical treatises” (A.T. Robertson). “Anoint” is so used in Mark 6:13; Luke 10:34. The idea is for them to be saved or restored from their sickness (Mt. 9:21; John 11:12). Many faith healers use this verse to prove their authority for their practices. However, in New Testament times the sick person isn’t brought to some healing service, but is rather healed at home. There is no fanfare, rather the person is healed with a great amount of simplicity. There are no failures. However, not every Christian was healed of their sickness or disease (2 Timothy 4:20; 1 Timothy 5:23). The Catholic church on the other hand uses this passage as a proof text for Extreme Unction. It is a sacrament conveying spiritual grace (assuring pardon of unforgiven sins) to the sick in danger of death. Yet, the person in the text is prayed for in hope of recovery.
At the same time one may pray for a brother who is sick, they can pray for their sins (see1 Pet. 2:24).
In general Christians are to prayer for one another. This does not require “Prayer Partners” as the Crossroads movement promotes. The confession of sins is not auricular confessions as held by the Catholic Church. “When sinning has occurred, the confession required here is not to a priest but “to one another”” (Kent 192). The private confession of sins before the priest alone was made compulsory by the Fourth Lateran Council (1215 A.D.).
The prayer of the righteous man is said to be “effective” from the Greek energeo from which the English word “energy” is derived. The strength of Elijah’s prayer for it to not rain for three and a half years and then a prayer for it to rain is given as an example (1 Kings 19:3,9-14).
James mentions the end result of these prayers in verse nineteen and twenty. Some brethren will go astray. This term is from the Greek planeo meaning to wonder. The term “planets” comes from this idea. The ancients saw the planets wandering the night skies. Some Christians will wander away from the faith into sin. “Sin brings forth death” (1:15). Restoring the sinner will cover many sins.
– Daniel R. Vess