"Year in Review"
It is strange how one day makes a difference just because of how it falls in some arbitrary numbering scheme. Until something less than 2000 years ago, December 25 was just a cold day in the Northern Hemisphere. Until 2001, September 11 was just another fall day early in the school year. And just because of the way the Julian calendar was set up and corrected over time, today is the last day of the year.
Even so, people feel a need to sit back and look over the events over the last 365 days and draw significance from them. It often gets reduced to lists, such as the “10 Best and Worst…,” who was born and died, how long one’s resolutions lasted and so on. The born and died is actually probably the most significant of these, and I like looking at those lists because it reminds us of our mortality and the influence that those had that are no longer with us. Some I’d heard about, and some I hadn’t. More and more of the actors I grew up watching, enjoying and even admiring, are gone.
Some have said that the only constant is change, and this time provides the opportunity to examine those changes and meditate on their impact on our lives. Which changes did we induce and which came to us externally? How then do we respond to them and be more proactive today? The opportunities for both reflection and navel-gazing are endless.
What does God think of this? Is this some arcane form of idolatry, or some distraction from looking to Him? Not necessarily. Throughout Scripture, He commanded the Hebrews to remember their past and key events in it. Their feasts, festivals and other celebrations had the purpose of reminding them who they are and Whose they are. They also pointed forward to the consummation of history in the incarnation, so that those with eyes to see would recognize the Messiah when He came. Even in the Gospels, Christ required us to remember. We are to remember Him, His sacrifice, and His resurrection through Communion. What a word—communion—to come together in a profound unity, joining as the singular Body and Bride of Christ to remember the day of our Redemption and to prepare us for the day of our Marriage to Him. Looking back and also pointing forward. Either without the other is incomplete and will lead us astray.
We look back to see how we got through the tough times and how we lost the good times so that we can recognize the signposts ahead. We look ahead to see the coming together of all of the threads and pieces into a single story, a complete resolution revealed, the darkly-seeing mirror cleared, giving meaning to the lessons of the past. Well and good is January named. Janus, the doubly-faced Roman god that looked both backwards and forward, symbolizes the continuity of time and our need to live in the present, yet fully aware of both the past and the future.
Someone once said that for most people, history began the day they were born, which is why older people tend to be wiser than younger. The truly wise refuse to be bound by this axiom and seek to stretch their understanding of history beyond their own experience.
Even in time, context is important. The past, present and future have a dynamic relationship to the person riding the temporal wave through the universe, and wisdom is found in rightly reading its currents.