Ministers who are obliged to preach Old Year or New Year sermons are usually hard put to know what to say. To preach about the year as something forever gone and past is a rather melancholy business. For there is something sad about year’s end; melancholy does linger through the last days of a dying year. For some this haunting feeling has the sharp edge of despair, as the sudden increase in suicides so tragically indicates. After all, a year is not just a year, but a year of a man’s life, and the end of the one echoes the end of the other. Old Year sermons consequently tend to be funereal.
A sober realism similarly prevents the maker of New Year sermons from speaking with unbounded enthusiasm about the glowing possibilities often superficially associated with the dawn of a new year. Memories of past years hinder hope that the new year will be all shining and bright.
Why is it difficult even for the Christian minister to make good sermons about the ending of one year and the beginning of a new one? Chiefly, because neither Old Year’s Day nor New Year’s Day is a Christian holiday. Neither day commemorates a great act of God or a significant event in the life of Christ. Our calendar is a Roman calendar, and the origin of its division of time stems from paganism at worst, or from the movement of the stars at best. Consequently, he who feels obliged to preach Jesus Christ “in season and out of season” has peculiar difficulties in his sermonic efforts because he can find nothing distinctively Christian to say about the thirty-first of December or the first of January. Under the circumstances he does the best he can. He either philosophizes about time and its passage, or preaches a sermon equally appropriate to any day of the year, ...1
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