Advent Devotional: Thursday, January 1: New Year’s Day and the Holy Name of Jesus

Blessed New Year!

A funny story about January 1st…

Liturgically this date for a long time had no importance for the Christian church. The day was originally intended to celebrate Janus, the Roman god who faced two directions. It encouraged much revelry and license…and still does for many.

But the church rejected the holiday as pagan for many years. St. Augustine is reported to have said to the crowd that gathered outside his church in honor of the day, “I see that you have come here as if we had a feast today.”

But slowly the church began to accept the date as a feast day. Originally they honored Mary on this day, being the 8th day after Jesus’ birth. The festival was entitled “Octave of Christmas: the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God.” This was the earliest celebration of St. Mary in the Western church.

But eventually the day became the day when Jesus’ naming was celebrating. On the 8th day after their birth Jewish boys were named and circumcised, and this date became the established feast in the 9th century.

But much like Christmas itself, whose date was forced upon the church by the pagan holiday of Saturnalia, this date and feast day is forced upon the church. That is, people were celebrating and the church had to change the reason for it to match the faith.

This happens all the time, by the way, and is nothing to be ashamed about. Our reasons for celebrating at different occasions will shift throughout our lives. Indeed, I imagine that you already have ideas about what you want to celebrate in 2015…and they are probably different than what you planned on celebrating in 2014.


Life shifts and moves. Our reasons change, as do our seasons. Life is a constant adjustment to flux.


So on this, the morning of the new year, perhaps it is good to refocus on the name of Jesus. Or in Hebrew, Joshua (see, even that has changed!). Jesus the Christ, who despite the movement of the world, represents God’s consistent embodiment of love.


Happy New Year. May this year of changes be full of God’s intransient love!


Question for reflection: As my life changes and moves, what do I need to center myself upon to be assured of God’s love? What in 2015 can help me grow closer to God and my true self?

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