New Year Message 2015

Posted on: Thursday 24th December 2015


If being ‘two-faced’ is usually seen as a character flaw, it was an essential quality of the Ancient Roman god Janus. Janus was god of the New Year, and of gates, doors, hinges and all points of turning or crossing. Janus was depicted looking both ways – back to the past and forward to the future.

At this time of year we sense the turning point. We feel an instinct to review what has happened in the year now gone. My friends send me those must-read, newsy letters inside Christmas cards telling me about their career triumphs, their exotic holidays in far-away places and about how successful their children have been – and if my own quiet life sometimes pales beside these epic accounts of massive achievement, nonetheless I too find myself glancing back over my own past twelve months.  This is a time for planning too, and for resolutions. No ‘maybes’; no ‘ifs’. How different the next twelve months are going to be! I too will fly to far-away places; I too will achieve!

Recently I have been involved with a nearby Diocese of the Church of England, helping them to think about a review and re-launch of their ministerial review-scheme for clergy. From the huge complexity of the former system, they have produced something lean and hopefully highly effective – with a very simple preface for both reviewers and reviewees. “The review,” says the document, “acts as a hinge: an opportunity to acknowledge the past, to notice the present and to look to the future.”

It is that middle bit that we often skip-over.“Notice the present.” So busy and helter-skelter have our lives become, so ready to rush on to the next accomplishment or target, that we find our appreciation of the here and now shrinks. But there is huge blessing to be found in awareness of the present moment, even if the place we are in feels less than perfect.

Why not, as a spiritual exercise in these holy days of Christmastide, set aside some time just to notice where you are. Don’t immediately rush to spot the imperfections; rather, be appreciative and notice the good. And notice what and who has brought you to this place – and who shares in it. And be thankful. And dare to stay there, in your thankfulness, until it has made its mark on your soul,  and only then move on into what lies ahead in 2016.

The mystery of the Incarnation celebrates that God comes to us in Jesus Christ in the here and now – born among us, today.  It is not merely about events two thousand years ago – nor about a bright promise for an imagined future. It is about God with us, Emmanuel.

A blessed Christmas and a very happy New Year from all of us at St Paul’s.

Fr Alan Gyle