- Rev Peter Chan (BPCEC)
Passover and Chinese New Year
26 And when your children ask you, ‘What does this ceremony mean to you?’ 27 then tell them, ‘It is the Passover sacrifice to the LORD, who passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt and spared our homes when he struck down the Egyptians.’ “Then the people bowed down and worshiped. 28 The Israelites did just what the LORD commanded Moses and Aaron. Exodus 12:26 -28
Chinese New Year is a special time for me since I was a child. I didn’t come from a Christian family and so celebrated it with the Chinese perspectives - partly traditional and partly religious!
Chinese New Year is also known as “passing over into the new year” (guo nian – 过年). As for its reason for the ancient traditional name as guo nian (过年), we have to rely on mythology. According to ancient legend, it was said that the villagers were terrorized by a monstrous creature known as Nian (年). Annually, on the first day of the year, it would descend from the mountains to the villages to devour grain and livestock.
One day, an old man exhorted the villagers to be courageous, as they were many and the monstrous creature was one. But none of the villagers believed him. So, the first day of the new year came and every person in the villages remained indoors. The old man met the creature and scared it away for several nights. The old man turned out to be a deity. He would soon return to where he came from and so he informed the villagers that this monstrous creature cold be easily intimidated. It feared the colour RED and loud noises.
And so, annually, on the first day of the New Year, the people celebrated guo nian (过年), a the Nian. They celebrated it with putting up couplets and cloths of red. People would also sport red-coloured clothes. The festival would be celebrated with loud drums and music, hoping it would scare away the monstrous creatures.
I cannot help but each time I recall the story of how guo nian came about, I remember the Bible story of Exodus, especially the Final Plague. God instructed Moses to get the Israelites to kill a perfect lamb and spatter its blood across the door posts of their homes. Despite the last Nine Plagues, Pharaoh remained adamant in enslaving the Israelites, perhaps greater resolved! The blood on the door posts of Israelite homes would serve as a sign for the Angel of Death to pass over these homes. But, for the Egyptian homes that were without the blood on their door posts, the Angel of Death would go in and kill the firstborn child and livestock.
Blood has been spilled in substitution for the Israelite’s firstborn so that they may live.
I am thinking about blood as being RED, which is indeed the colour in which, the blood of the Perfect Lamb of God has been shed for us so that God’s wrath may be passed over from us. The author to Hebrews writes: “In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” (9:23) Paul writes in Ephesians 2:3, “All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.”
So, the blood of Christ does two things: (1) avert God’s wrath from us; and (2) achieve for us God’s forgiveness for our sin.
Perhaps, celebrating the Chinese New Year should and must take on new perspective and significance, not that we are more assured of health and prosperity, but that we should be reminded of Christ’s blood whenever and wherever we turn to during CNY. We should be overflowing with praise and thanksgiving because of God turning His wrath from us and turning us into object of His love! When celebrating CNY, we are celebrating our blessedness in Christ:
Passover from object of God’s wrath to object of God’s love All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. (Ephesians 2:3) How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. (I John 3:1)
Passover from death to life I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life. (John 5:24)
Passover from being citizens of earth to citizens of heaven; children of Adam to children of God But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Saviour from there, the Lord Jesus Christ (Philippians 3:2) Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God - children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. (John 1:12 - 13)
Dear Father in heaven, thank You for sending Jesus Christ as our Passover Lamb. And, in and through Him, we have passed over from judgment, condemnation, and death. Instead, we now have forgiveness of sin, sonship, and sharing of Christ’s glory when He returns! What a glorious Passover in Christ indeed! Spirit of God, manifest Your presence in and with us by reminding us of the blood of Christ that brought us the Great Passover, so that we may continually be humble and grateful as we celebrate CNY. Amen. – Peter Chan