Happy New Year 2012 AD

What a blessing to be given a new year. May we each be grateful to God, and intentional in making the most of our time (Psalm 90:12 & Ephesians 5:15-16).

As for “celebrating” — I’m glad we do so! Here is a bit of timely background from Dr George Grant from his blog:

The celebration of the New Year did not occur on the first day of January until after the introduction of the Gregorian calendar in 1582—and even then only in France, the northern Italian city states, Portugal, and in the Spanish nations of Castile and Aragon. The new calendar was not accepted until 1600 in Scotland and 1752 in England and America.

From the earliest days of the Roman imperial calendar the New Year was celebrated on March 25—which is why September, October, November, and December are derived from the Latin words septem (seven), octo (eight), novem (nine), and decem (ten).

Throughout Christendom, January 1 was instead celebrated as a day of renewal midway through the Yuletide season—it was thus a day for vows, vision, and vocation. It was on this day that guild members took their annual pledge, that husbands and wives renewed their marriage promises, and that young believers reasserted their resolution to walk in the grace of the Lord’s great Epiphany.

In Edinburgh beginning in the seventeenth century, revelers would gather at the Tron Church to watch the great clock tower mark the last hours of Christmastide—which was the inspiration behind the much more recent Times Square ceremony in New York. In Edinburgh, of course, the purpose was not merely to have a grand excuse for a public party, but was a way for the whole covenant community to celebrate the grace of Epiphany newness.

“Peace in believing”

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing…”
(Romans 15:13a, ESV)

Peace is readily available to those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. A fantastic analogy is given in an eloquent sermon by the great Thomas Chalmers

Should a powerful and offended neighbor, under the threats of whose resentment I had I had been living for months in fearful insecurity; should he send to my door an offer of reconciliation, it is not difficult to understand how, at the moment of my reliance upon the truth and honesty of this offer, I would be at rest. Nor would it at all disturb the peacefulness of my heart, that I were given to know that the proposed friendship was only yet mine in offer, and not mine in possssion, till I had perform certain conditions which I knew to be easily practicable. It would not, for example, abate the joy of the announcement, that I was told of an intended call on the part of my relenting adversary, and that I must give him a courteous reception, and stretch out my hand as the token of my having accepted his overture; and that then what was now mine in offer, would be come mine in possession also.

If I consented to all this, and felt not merely the possibility, but the perfect ease of it, I would not postpone my gladness till the hour of the expected visit. On my faith in the reality and integrity of the offer, I would consider my before formidable enemy to be now my placid and my attached friend. An instantaneous peace would arise in my bosom nor would I wait the coming formalities of reconciliation ere I threw aside the burden of my disquietude.

Thomas Chalmers, “Peace in Believing”
in Precious Seed: Discourses by Scottish Worthies

Read this again, slowly, and find profit for your own faith, and in believing find much joy!

pdb

Friday Fun: A town called “Bissett”

Although the Bissett’s are Scots by heritage, apparently this beautiful little place in England is distinguished from other towns named “Prestons” by the suffix, Bissett, for the Lords of the Manor there. (See the brief Wikipedia article here).

I’m honored.
— pdb

PS: I discovered this ‘accidentally’ while checking the background of a major author and professor of the history of the church at Oxford, Diarmaid MacCulloch. His newest book, A History of Christianity: the first three thousand years, has just hit the American market. He mentioned Preston Bissett on the first page of his book on the Reformation, which I have not (yet) read.
— pdb

Scottish Declaration of Independence

The Declaration of Arbroath (sometimes called the Declaration of Independence) is one of the great icons of Scotland and is in the form of a letter (in Latin) to the Pope from several earls and barons of Scotland asking him in rousing terms to acknowledge Scotland as an independent nation and to reject the claims of the English king. The Declaration of Arbroath is dated April 6th, 1320. The Declaration was ahead of its time as it sets out that the king (previously regarded as appointed by God) could be driven out if he did not uphold the freedom of the country. It later became a model for the American Declaration of Independence.

It sets out the long history of Scotland as an independent state and cleverly tries to persuade the Pope of the legitimacy of Scotland’s case. It’s most famous and most quoted passage (which I have framed in my study) is as follows:

“For so long as there shall but one hundred of us remain alive we will never give consent to subject ourselves to the dominion of the English. For it is not glory, it is not riches, neither is it honours, but it is freedom alone that we fight and contend for, which no honest man will lose but with his life.”

While the original Declaration was delivered to the Pope, a contemporary copy is held in Register House, Edinburgh. A translation of the full text is found here.