Each year, we make resolutions, despite statistics supporting that many resolutions are broken before the sun goes down on the new year. We look back at the year gone by, take stock of where we are and determine to make a change or set of changes to improve our lives, ourselves, or our situation. We resolve to eat healthier, drink less, be kinder, and great each day with joy. How did this madness get started?
Centuries before I was a twinkle in my parent’s eyes, the Babylonians began making new year’s resolutions. Believing that the gods would shower them with favor if they kept their word, the Babylonians made promises to their gods to pay their debts and return things that they had borrowed.
Roman Emperor Julius Caesar tinkered with the calendar and crowned January 1st as the start of the new year. Being the emperor is good. You can do things like dictate what calendar the world follows. Soon after, the Romans began making sacrifices to their god Janus, the namesake of January who they believed took stock of the past year as he looked ahead.
Christians joined in the new year resolution party, and in the mid-1700s John Wesley built on the Christian tradition of contemplating one’s past shortcomings and resolving to do better in the future. The founder of Methodism, Wesley started the Watch Night services, also known as Covenant Renewal Services. The Watch Night service was filled with Scripture readings and hymn singing and afforded Christians a ready alternative to the secular revelry associated with ushering in the new year. During these services, fellow believers gather together and pray, making resolutions for the upcoming year.
What are you resolving to do better in 2017? Is there a change you’re praying for that you hope to see come to fruition in the new year?
Haven’t decided? No worries. I am still working through my list of things myself.
Whatever you choose, know that I am praying for you and that my hope for you is that God showers you with His love in the upcoming new year.
Great post! I did not know that about the Romans or Wesley. I attended lots of Watch Night services, or New Year’s Vigils, growing up in the Midwest. Since moving to Texas, none of our churches have done these services. Is it the time, denomination, or the area? I miss those all night services with music, prayer, food, testimonials, friends, etc.
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Thanks Kathryn! I’m not sure about the watch night events. I am unfamiliar with them myself. It certainly seems like a great idea.
I knew about the origins of New Year’s, but hadn’t heard of Watch Night services–that’s neat!
In 2017 I’m planning to devote a little more focus to keeping my body healthy and in shape, as well as strengthening my wrists (they’ve had issues for a couple of years and sometimes that interferes with my writing or work.) I’d also like to start writing a little every day.
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Those are excellent and doable resolutions, Heather. Best of luck to you in making daily progress towards them.