When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.
Some wag has said that regardless of what Christopher Columbus proved, the world is flat the day after Christmas. Call it Post-Christmas Blues, Post Holiday Let-down, it’s not nearly as much fun to take down the decorations, tree and lights as it was to put them up.
Yet, I do think of this day and the days through New Year’s as very special days, holy days. They are days unlike any other day on our calendar, and that has to do with more than time off from work, a glut of bowl games, and after Christmas sales. It’s about these being days of Liminal Time, days of standing poised on the threshold. The word Liminal derives from the Latin, limen, meaning “threshold.” It refers to that bottom part of the doorway crossed when leaving and entering a room.
Different cultures through the centuries have had different ways of minding the crossing of the Limen. Some have hung mistletoe over it, carried brides across it, taken shoes off before it, and offered up quick threshold prayers. Crossing the Limen has traditionally called for a pause to look back and to look ahead, and to honor that special Liminal Time.
The coming month of January is named after the Roman god Janus, the god of thresholds, doorways, exits and entrances and all of life’s transitions. Notably Janus was depicted as having two faces; one face for looking back and another for looking ahead. In today’s Scripture I think that Mary is taking time to “ponder”; she is looking back at the things that had happened, and looking ahead to what the coming days might bring.
Today as we stand on the threshold of a new year, it is good to stop and bit and ponder these special days. I think that being a Christian means having attitudes distinct from the secularist who is devoid of the God dimension.
A Christian looks at the past year with gratitude. We are assured that the evil done to us God intends for our good (see Genesis 50:20). While there are many things we do not know, we can know and be sure of this: “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). Today we can look at the past year with gratitude.
As to this holy, present moment, we can look at it with contentment, and say with the apostle Paul: “we have enough of everything” (2 Corinthians 9:8). I find it good to remind myself of Paul’s words to Timothy: “there is great gain in godliness combined with contentment” (I Timothy 6:6). Even in a Roman prison Paul could say, “I have learned to be content with whatever I have…I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:11, 13).
As to the year ahead, we can look at it with trust. Whatever 2017 brings, Jesus promises to always be with us (see Matthew 28:20). He has promised us: “’I will never leave you or forsake you.’ So we can say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can anyone do to me?’” (Hebrews 13:5-6). Today Jesus is saying to us, “trust me” (John 14:1).
You might want to take a few moments from the bowl games, returning a gift, and taking down the tree, in order to ponder. Jesus is the God of all exits and entrances and all of life’s transitions. He is after all, Emmanuel, “God-With-Us.” He reigns as King over all our yesterdays, todays, and endless tomorrows!
Grace and peace,