It is that week between festivities, between the Christmas celebrations and the welcoming of the new year. We seem to have abandoned the old agricultural tilt to the calendar, when the new year began either in the spring with the arrival of new life in the fields or in the fall, Celtic style, when the harvest was in and it was time to think about the future.
Instead we have turned to ancient Rome and joined those celebrating the winter solstice and rejoicing that, once again, the heavenly light has not gone out forever but is patiently growing each day. The Christian world said, “Yes. We have a greater light, One who said that he was come to be the light of the world.” And so as the pagans welcomed the returning sun, the Christians set the date for the birth of Jesus and arranged their year accordingly.
Strange as it seems upon reflection, Janus, the two-headed god who can look both forward and backwards, lends his name to our calendar. He can stimulate some unhealthy thinking and I’d like to warn you away from that. It is not a great idea to look back over the past year and see all that has gone wrong or that you have done badly. That could be more depressing than the tarnished tinsel collecting in our trash cans.
Instead, pick just one manageable area where you might make a change that would be beneficial. A small change in lifestyle or exercise habits, a meaningful prayer resolution, or the decision to be part of a volunteer opportunity that is truly possible. Adopt that whole-heartedly. All else that could have been goes into the giant maw of the past, not to be unearthed again.
Then, and this is even more important, take the time to be grateful. No matter the stresses or the disappointments of the dying year, there were blessings. You are still here and so is this fragile but lovely earth. Make up your own litany of gratitude for what has been experienced by you this past year. I hope it is a long one, so long that perhaps you might need two prayer sessions to name it all.
There you have it, my plan for the end of this week: one shift of direction and a litany of gratitude. With that, I can happily put up my new calendar and face 2017 with joy and a renewed sense of hope.