Our Gregorian calendar has served us well with organizing time, but has disconnected us from the natural rhythms the rest of creation follows. The Hebrew calendar is a lunar calendar starting each month with the new moon. The days also start at sunset rather than sunrise.
“God called the light “day,” and He called the darkness “night.” Evening came and then morning: the first day.”Genesis 1:5 (HCSB)
Because the lunar months are a few days shorter than our solar months, the Hebrew month start dates dance throughout our Gregorian months, moving back and forth between the same two months or so every few years. To keep the lunar calendar aligned with the physical seasons (spring, summer, fall, winter), every few years there is a leap month.
With the solar calendar, we have the leap day of February 29th every four years. With the lunar calendar, there is the leap month of a second Adar. The Hebrew leap years follow what is called a Metonic cycle, meaning that leap years occur seven times within a nineteen-year cycle. This works out to about every two-three years on years 3, 6, 8, 11, 14, 17, and 19. In 2019 we are in the eighth year of the Metonic cycle.
The start of the year is also different with the Hebrew calendar. Much like we have our calendar year and school year that both mark different starting points, the Hebrew calendar has more than one New Year. While Rosh Hashanah in the month of Tishrei is considered the start of the civil year, the month of Nisan became the head of the ecclesiastical (spiritual) year for the Jewish people when Passover was established.
One of the reasons many Christians have reluctance about paying any attention to the moon is the way mythology, Wicca, and occultic practices attribute feminine deity to the moon and perform rituals in conjunction with the lunar cycle. While we certainly want to be careful about the meaning we attribute to the lunar calendar and the sources we are getting our information, it’s silly to say the lunar calendar is off limits. Some ancient civilizations worshipped a sun god, but that hasn’t stopped us from appreciating sunsets and sunrises and noting how certain colors at sunset can provide weather forecast information.
“Then God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night, and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years; and let them be for lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth”; and it was so.
God made the two great lights, the greater light to govern the day, and the lesser light to govern the night; He made the stars also. God placed them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, and to govern the day and the night, and to separate the light from the darkness; and God saw that it was good.”Genesis 1:14-18 (NASB)
God gave us the sun and the moon to signify seasons and signs that He wants to communicate to us. Society has been pretty good about continuing to pay attention to the sun, but we’ve often neglected the moon and what it has to say about the glory God is revealing to us. The moon reflects the light of the sun as we are called to reflect the Light of the World.
The Biblical New Moon
Lunar events are described throughout scripture as being signs of God’s moves. Israel knew the importance of the lunar calendar and set up feasts according to mark the new moons. Some historians argue that the observance of looking for the new moon was an act of worship; explaining that the ancient Israel definition of the “new moon” was actually the first sliver of a waxing crescent moon that is seen after what we consider a new moon when the moon is hidden by the earth’s shadow.
Others say that the full moon is actually what Biblically is referred to as the new moon; and that our lack of connection to this method of counting time has left us disconnected from what God is trying to reveal to us through the luminaries.
Getting Back in Rhythm
Regardless of when the new moon technically occurs, what is clear is that we are missing out on the beautiful rhythm God set up with the lunar cycle. The switch from a lunar calendar to a solar calendar stripped us of a sense of season.
When we pay attention to the lunar calendar, we are reconnected with the passage of time the way the world naturally experiences it. Our solar calendar makes it easier for modern society to be organized, but in our artificial organization we have lost touch with one of the ways God wants to communicate with us.
Engaging with the lunar cycle not only reconnects us to these natural rhythms but also reveals spiritual patterns we have already been following blindly. Our bodies have been aware of these patterns all along, but our minds never were taught. Creation groans for us to understand our freedom as sons and daughters of God (Romans 8:18-24), yet we have not had ears to hear and eyes to see the things God has hidden for us to discover (Proverbs 25:2). As our eyes are opened to these patterns set into creation, we gain a fresh understanding of our authority and access to the depths of freedom and healing waiting to be claimed.