As a student in Rome I was used to seeing the ruined remains of many ancient temples, but the one the appeared to me to be most unusual in its design and structure was the temple, or four-fold arch, of Janus. Janus was always depicted with two faces; each facing in opposite directions. One looked back to the past and the other forward to the future. He was held to be the god of beginnings, gates, transitions, time, doorways, passages and endings.
Though not invoked any longer, I am sure some of us might understand the creation of such a deity as we approach the end of this year and the start of a new one.
Perhaps, as we look back, we might be filled with sadness and regret at what 2017 has brought us. Perhaps, as we look forward, some of us may be filled with fear over an uncertain future and worry over just what 2018 may have in store for us.
It is interesting to remember that when God reveals himself in the Old Testament he reveals his name as ‘I AM’. Not, ‘I was’ nor ‘I will be’, but rather ‘I AM’. God, then, is to be fully encountered – not in our past or in our future, but now – in this present moment.
This is what the great festival of Christmas is really all about. It is why it is Good News for us and all the world. In the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ, the eternal Word of God takes our flesh, enters time and space, and shares fully in our human experience. Jesus of Nazareth is ‘Emanuel’, which means, ‘God IS with us’.
By his birth long ago in Bethlehem, God in his love in Christ has come to be with us – now in the present moment of each day, that we may no longer be victims of our past nor of what might come to pass.
May you know this truth here and now, during the Christmas season, and into the year ahead.