Start the new year off right by aligning it with God’s principles. With each year comes a chance to refocus and reset. This is a great time to gather together and celebrate all that has happened and look forward to what is to come. A New Year’s Eve church service is a perfect way to celebrate the holiday season and put Jesus first.
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Biblical Roots of New Year’s Celebration
In the Bible, the Jewish new year typically begins during the seventh month of the Hebrew calendar in September or October with Rosh Hashanah which means “head of the year.” It commemorates the creation of the world and marks the beginning of the Days of Awe.
Though we now celebrate the beginning of a new year in January, the principles for celebrating a new beginning remain the same. Historically, Rosh Hashanah involves repentance, contemplation, and a celebration rich in symbolism. Though your church may not follow these traditions, a church sermon that digs into the symbolism of Rosh Hashanah can help your congregation understand the significance of this annual transition from a Biblical perspective.
The very celebration that surrounds the beginning of a New Year is rooted in the history of Israel’s exodus from Egypt. In Exodus 35-40, when Moses came down from Mount Sinai, he gave to the congregation of Israel God’s instructions for constructing the Tabernacle. After the people responded to Moses’ appeal for materials and workers to build the Tabernacle, God gave specific directions for its construction. Exodus 40:1 says “Then the Lord spoke to Moses: ‘You are to set up the tabernacle, the tent of meeting, on the first day of the month'”. Even though the Jewish calendar differs significantly from our modern calendar, “the first day of the month” is New Year’s Day.
This event in Israel’s history can help us understand the importance of getting the new year off to a good start by planning meaningful New Year’s celebrations in our churches. Our collective experience teaches us that most of our church members will celebrate the new year in some form or fashion. Giving them the option of celebrating with their church family is a great alternative to secular celebrations.
New Year’s Event
If you’d like to give your congregation a wonderful alternative to New Year’s celebration parties, then throw a New Year’s event! Whether you’d like to start the event a little earlier in the evening and have it finish around 9 or 10 p.m., or you’d like to carry the event on until midnight, the choice is up to you.
A New Year’s event could be a great way to gather community together that might otherwise not do anything on New Year’s eve. Some people might opt to sleep through the holiday or celebrate quietly at home. Others might host a party each year with friends and family. Since the holiday is so close to Christmas, families might still be out of town or visiting family. Take this opportunity to host a small event to celebrate together. Go as big or as small as you want!
Activities to do:
Start the year in worship – Begin a worship set before the clock strikes midnight and sing into the new year to mark it will worship. This can be a meaningful time to say that you want Jesus to be the priority of your life and the year ahead. Choose a powerful song and time it out with the countdown into the new year. Make it fun and uplifting, this can be a very exciting time!
Communion – Taking the Lord’s supper can also be a very powerful moment as you bring in the new year and leave the past behind.
Baptisms – Baptisms mark the start of a new life and a new beginning just as the new year does. Water baptisms can be a powerful way for those who haven’t yet made that decision to declare that Jesus is the Lord of their life.
Hand out Bible Verses with inspiring verses for the new year
Food – Depending upon the size of your church, host a potluck. Ask those who want to attend to bring in their favorite dish or to sign up to cover different food areas. This is a great way to celebrate community and even try some new dishes!
Fun – Have kids make party hats and glasses to ring in the new year! Do some icebreaker games or have different stations set up with different activities to keep people occupied as the clock winds down.
New Year’s Resolutions – Have everyone write down their New Year’s resolutions (reading the Bible more, praying every morning, joining a small group).
An inspiring thing you can do is hand out written out Bible verses as people walk in. Perhaps you can even have everyone think about a Bible verse they would like to be the theme of their year. Below are some great Bible verses about beginning new:
Isaiah 43:18-9 ESV
“Remember not the former things,
nor consider the things of old.
Behold, I am doing a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
and rivers in the desert.”
Lamentations 3:22-23 ESV
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
Ezekiel 36:26 ESV
“And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.”
“Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”
2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”
Philippians 3:13-14 NIV
“Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
“No one tears a piece of cloth from a new garment and puts it on an old garment; otherwise he will both tear the new, and the piece from the new will not match the old. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise, the new wine will burst the skins and it will be spilled out, and the skins will be ruined. But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins.”
“Sing to the LORD a new song, for he has done marvelous things; his right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him.”
‘He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”’
“We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”
“May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed.”
The focus of most sermon ideas for the start of the year will be centered around fresh starts. A church service at the beginning of the year is a great time to preach to new guests. Everyone is typically focused on improving themselves in all areas of their life. A major area to pay attention to is your faith and growing your relationship with God. Take a look at a few ideas for sermons for the new year to get people thinking about their priorities.
The story of Noah’s Ark is one that many people hear about from childhood. It marks a new beginning for the world as everything was washed away to create a new thing. Much like Noah, we experience new beginnings every year in January. It marks a time to reflect on the past year, move forward and set new goals.
Jesus Christ has given us the ultimate second chance for a life in eternity with Him. There is nothing we can do to turn Him away from us, no sin so great that He will abandon us. God is vert patient in giving us second chances—and not just one, but continual second chances. Micah 7:18 says, “Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy.” All throughout the Bible, God gifts second chances to a host of people who try to run from God.
A new year gives us time to reflect on the past year, thinking of perhaps mistakes we don’t want to repeat. Progress does not happen without self-reflection. In Ephesians, it says, “To put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”
Just as with reflection, comes remembrance. This doesn’t mean we should only focus on past mistakes, but all the good God has down in our lives. By constantly remembering that God delights in us and finds joy in providing for us. The Bible provides plenty of examples when God’s people took time to remember all the ways He had been faithful to them in their history.
Psalm 105 tells us, “Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles and the judgments he pronounced”. Several times in the book of Psalms, David, and the other psalmists do just that, recounting Israel’s history and the spectacular things the Lord had done.
At the beginning of a new year, people often take a look of their day-to-day life. They assess their past decisions and consider the future. That makes January a perfect time to call people back to what matters most.
Chances are, with the New Year, there will be several people in the service who are new to church and the Bible. This is your chance to set them off on the right path while also giving long-time followers of Jesus a reminder of what it’s all about.
Listen to what Paul said when he wrote, “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3–4).
As you focus and assess the past year and the year ahead, find the essentials to what you need. Jesus is the center of it all, so therefore base everything else around Him. He should take up our time and be at the center of every relationship. It can get complicated trying to set goals each year that are unattainable such as reading your Bible every day for an hour. Start small because the Word is what is essential, not the amount hours you spend a day in it. Start each day with Jesus and place Him as the most essential part of your life.
Whether you want to have a large or small gathering to ring in the New Year, make it your own! Invite people to spend time in prayer. And a time to refocus their life on Jesus Christ during a New Year’s Eve church service. The new year brings in a sense of hope and expectation. Begin praying now for all that God has in store next year!