Two thousand and eighteen years ago something happened that would change the trajectory of history forever. All our times are pin-pointed to this one significant event that we can't erase from our collective memory, no matter how much we may try. For despite what you believe, or don't believe, the simple reality is that every single day of our lives has a date that is based on a time when 'the Word [of God] became flesh and dwelt amongst us' in the person of Jesus Christ.
When fireworks erupt in dazzling colours over Sydney Harbour, and white balloons are released in Japan to the chorus of temple bells, when Russian cities are aglow with fairy lights shimmering in the snow, and Romanians dress in costume bellowing traditional songs, when London's Big Ben chimes at the stroke of midnight, and the crystal ball in Times Square, New York, drops, every city in every nation welcomes the New Year. But exactly whose year is it?
Dionysius. No, this is not a species of dinosaur recently discovered by David Attenborough. Dionysius the Humble is a 6th Century Romanian monk, who one day gave himself the task of making a pretty awesome Easter table. That is, without wi-fi he couldn't just google when Easter would occur over the following years. But luckily Dionysius was great with numbers, so he did his own computus (calculations) to figure it all out for the Church.
However, as he worked something bugged him. The date. Every year the date in his snazzy table was based on the reign of a tyrant called Diocletian, who spilt more Christian blood than any Roman Emperor before or after him.
Dionysius must have questioned why he was dating the crucifixion of his Saviour based on such a cruel reign. So the monk did something new. He scrapped the year 247 that began with Diocletian, and instead he started his Easter table with the year AD 532, to honour the One who spilt His own blood out of love.
As this unassuming monk sat with his quill drawing all this up, he initiated a new date system called Anno Domini, which translates from Latin as the 'Year of our Lord'.
It remains a mystery exactly how Dionysius landed upon AD 1 as the year his God became flesh, but modern scholars place the birth of Jesus of Nazareth as about 4 BC. So without wi-fi this rather extraordinary monk did a darn good job. It's no small feat to bring out of the dust of obscurity and into the open light the beginning of an epoch that changed everything for eternity.
Dionysius drew the world's attention to The Year of Our Lord. Yet let's be honest, no one really knows who Dionysius is. If you look him up, Google tells you he is 'best known as the inventor of the Anno Domini era'. Ah, hello, this is the era we live in ! Yet Dionysius is hardly a household name. Perhaps that's the way God intended it, and if Dionysius really was a humble monk, I don't think he'd mind. For humble means to go lower and lift God higher, to exalt His name and not our own. Dionysius simply shone a light on Jesus, the One who came into this crazy world to love it back to life and invite us to become children of God.
'He came into the very world he created, but the world didn't recognise him... but to all who believed him and accepted him, be gave the right to become children of God...So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness.'
John chapter 1, verses 10, 12, and 14
Dionysius looked at the society around him and wondered why every year recognised a murderer over the Sovereign One full of 'unfailing love'. He didn't just complain about it, but he changed what righteously angered him. Because he made this change, our collective history, our present world, our daily happenings and our future hopes, all find their time in the One who loved us more than anyone has ever loved before or since.
As we enter AD 2018 let's be mindful that this is Anno Domini, the Year of the Lord. It belongs to Him. All our times and seasons are in His capable hands. He has promised, 'I am with you always, even to the end of the age.' Matthew, chapter 28, verse 20.
This is the two thousand and eighteenth year He has dwelt amongst us: loving us unconditionally, forgiving us extravagantly, healing us completely, saving us eternally. This year there's no challenge too big that He can't overcome. There's no joy too small that He won't be a part of.
When we see Him dishonoured in our world, let's seek His help to change it. Like Dionysius. And when the structures of this world are shaken by the marching feet of His children rising up, let's determine to be humble. Because like Dionysius we don't invent the Year of Our Lord, we simply live it.
Hopeful voices belt out Auld Lang Syne, as night clubs are pumping. Old people are waltzing, while fireworks fill Earth's skies with galactic wonder. The whole world celebrates 2018. Let's join the anticipation. For what are we really celebrating, if not another Year of Our Lord.