This month.....

90 minute challenge.

Well it’s still Christmas (until 2nd February) so as well as wishing you a joyful New Year I can still wish you a Happy Christmas!

At the beginning of December, I was wishing people in Church a Happy New Year, as the Church’s New Year starts with Advent Sunday. Of course we all think of the New Year starting on the 1st January, which wasn’t so much chosen because it’s the first day of the first month but because it was the feast of the circumcision of Christ; not what I’m thinking about on New Year’s day!

What I hadn’t realised was that 1st January was not New Year’s day until 1751 before which time the New Year was deemed to start on Lady Day, 25th March. But in the middle ages a variety of days were kept, 1st March, 25th March, Easter Day, 1st September and 25th December as the beginning of the calendar.

We still preserve the old Lady Day New Year in our tax system!? March 25th plus 12 days, to convert from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar, give us 6th April. So the old New Year is preserved as the beginning of the Tax year.

The name of January comes from the Roman god Janus, the god of beginnings and transitions, of gates, doors, doorways, endings and time. This god is depicted as having a head with two faces, one looking forwards and one looking backwards. So a sense of reflection has been built into January ever since this month was called by that name, I suspect our perception of the days lengthening is part of this too.

As we start this New Year what will we be reflecting on? What will come out of those reflections? Will we be looking at making some real changes in our lives or will we be making those quick New Year’s Eve resolutions, made after little real reflection and which we so often break just a few days into the New Year.

Some people use the 1st January as the time to start a personal challenge. On last year’s New Year’s day I met a lady doing the Leicester Victoria Park Park Run who was starting a two year challenge to lose weight and not just a little weight but over half the weight she was then carrying! I hope that’s going well for her half way through the challenge.

But can I suggest a rather shorter and easier challenge, a 90 minute challenge? At the start of the Church’s year the dominant gospel read in church changes. This year it’s Mark’s gospel, the shortest of the four gospels and I think the most dynamic. Most of us, whether we go to church regularly or not, are used to hearing small sections of the Bible read. Few of us ever sit down and read a book of the Bible as literature.

So my 90 minute challenge (and it won’t take anything like that much time for most people), how about reading Mark’s gospel in one siting this January. If you don’t have a Bible at home or if the language of the Bible you do have is a little antiquated and difficult to follow then can I recommend http://bible.oremus.org/ as a good place to find an online Bible. For people of all faiths and none having a small knowledge of the Bible can be very useful it’s imbedded in our culture and most of the books of the Bible can be read as short stories, though some you might not want to read just before going to sleep!

If you’re going to have a New Year’s resolution or you’re using 1st January as the start of a personal project I wish you all the best with it and if you do take up my 90 minute challenge it would be interesting to know what you thought of reading scripture as literature!

Wishing you all the best as we “Mark” (?) the New Year.

Richard Curtis