One of the fun things about traveling around the world is there are numerous opportunities to celebrate the new year arriving. The Buddhist New Year falls in April, Ethiopian New Year is in September, and Jewish New Year is celebrated each autumn.This week it’s the Lunar New Year – celebrated in most of East Asia – China, Korea, Vietnam, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore to name a few.
In these countries, the Lunar New Year is a huge event, a time for families to get together and celebrate. Think Thanksgiving and Christmas all rolled into one. It’s also a time when thousands of new Christians will be heading home to visit their families for the first time since becoming a Christian, and they need our prayers.
There are three things that can make going home difficult as a new Christian:
In these cultures, bringing shame on your family is one of the greatest evils that you can perpetrate. Abandoning the family religion and taking on your own religion is considered an act of defiance against the whole family. Anyone who would do this is considered to be extremely rebellious, turning their back on the rest of the family—both the living and the dead, and showing an incredible lack of gratitude for all that the family has done. It’s humiliating for the whole family to have such a rebellious child and, in tight knit communities, it’s not a secret you could keep for very long.
Ancestor worship is a key part of the New Year celebrations. As the clock moves to midnight, families flock to temples to burn incense and pray for a good year. At home, family altars are stocked with the best fruit and other food that the family can afford. Even when you visit others you are expected to pray at their altar. Each of these offerings are made in hopes that the deceased family members will bless the family in the New Year. Everyone is expected to participate in these rituals, so within hours of returning home a new Christian has to either follow tradition by praying at the family altar or make a stand for Christ.
All this is made more difficult by the timing. The first week of the New Year is extremely important, it is believed to determine your luck for the rest of year. Every part of the day must go perfectly in order to ensure a lucky year. Needless to say, a rebellious family member or a huge family dispute over worshipping at the altar is extremely unwelcome.
For new Christians it’s a tricky time. Do they make a stand against going to the temple and worshipping at the family altar? Not only have they brought shame upon their family by rejecting the family religion, but they also will cause the family to believe that they will have bad luck all year. (Which is self fulfilling. If you believe your luck is bad all year you’ll find plenty of evidence that you are right.) If a new Christian does make a stand it’s not unusual for the family to refuse to let them follow their new religion. All manner of threats will be made to try to force them to change their mind, including cutting them off from the family, refusing to allow them to return to the city or withdrawing financial support.
But Lunar New Year is also an important time. For some families, it will be the first time they have ever heard the Christian message. Some families will open their eyes for the first time to the truth of Scripture. Some won’t reject Christ but instead this New Years will be the beginning of their faith journey.
Request for Prayer
Please pray for the thousands that will be headed home this New Year as brand new Christians. Pray in accordance with Luke 12:11-12 that the Holy Spirit would teach them what to say at the moment they need it. Pray that God will prepare their families. Pray that the families will understand and accept the Truth. And for those that face opposition, pray that God will give them the strength to overcome it. Pray that God would be so incredibly real to them at this time that they have comfort beyond their comprehension in the midst of the storm.
New Year is coming! Let’s support our new brothers and sisters in Christ with our prayers.