Welcome everyone back to school and observe that a new year has begun. It’s January, a month named after the Roman God Janus.
Explain how, in Roman mythology, Janus was the god of gates and doorways, beginnings and endings. He was often pictured with two faces, one looking forward, the other looking back. (Demonstrate by displaying an image of Janus, or invite two children of similar height to stand back to back.)
Reflect that the New Year is naturally a time for looking forward and looking back.
Invite everyone to look back upon the year that is past. What were the best moments and achievements? (Invite a number of children to share their positive memories. The child who represents Janus looking backwards might operate a microphone or help to choose contributors.)
Older people in particular often enjoy looking back. Why might this be? (Past memories can bring much happiness and comfort.)
Continue by now inviting everyone to look forward. What are their plans and hopes for the New Year? Has anybody made any New Year resolutions? (Again, invite a number of children to share their hopes and expectations. Enlist the help of the child who represents Janus looking forward.)
Comment that some may not find it easy to look forward. From time to time, everyone feels anxious about all that lies ahead. Others will be excited and thrilled by the thought of new beginnings and opportunities.
Refer to the children representing Janus and conclude: It’s good to look back upon past achievements – but we also can enjoy looking forward to new beginnings!
Ask the children if any of them are finding their schoolwork difficult at the moment. Say that this is natural – they will be learning new things this year and it might seem hard at first, but they will soon get the hang of it. It’s also difficult having been on holiday and having to get back into learning things again.
Explain that if they are really worried about schoolwork they can always get help from the teachers. Sometimes all they need to do is keep at it. What might seem impossible becomes possible in the end.
Tell them about a time in your life when you had to learn a new skill or when you went to college or university to learn about a subject. For example, ‘I have here some pretty big theology books. In the beginning, the books seemed too difficult to read and I thought I would never understand them. But, as time went on, I understood it!’
Tell the children the story of Joshua and Jericho. God promised to be with Joshua and always help him after Moses died and told him not to be afraid.
On their journey to the Promised Land, they had to go through Jericho, which was a city with big walls surrounding it. Two spies from the Israelites sneaked into Jericho and stayed with a woman called Rahab, who kept them safe from the king’s soldiers and helped them escape.
In order to take over Jericho, God made Joshua do something that seemed very strange. He told Joshua to get the soldiers to march around the city every day for six days, silently. The priests were to follow them, carrying the Ark of the Covenant (which was where the tablets of stone with the Ten Commandments were kept) and blow trumpets, but the soldiers and the people who followed the Ark had to be quiet.
On the seventh day, they were to march around the walls of Jericho seven times in the same way as the previous six days. On the eighth march around the walls, however, they were all to make as much noise as possible – and the walls fell down. That was very strange. How on Earth would just a big noise bring down such big strong walls?
Tell the children that, if they promise to be quiet, as soon as you put your hand up, they can have a go at making a big noise – just like they did in the battle of Jericho. Tell them to make a big trumpet noise, to see if they can bring the walls of the school down!
Then put your hand up to signal that the children need to be quiet again. If their first attempt is not that loud, get them to do it several times, until the noise is loud enough.
Clearly (hopefully!) the walls here didn’t fall down, but this story tells us about trusting in God, even when things seem difficult or impossible.
Sometimes, with things that are hard, we just have to do our best and keep going. Eventually, what we manage to learn or achieve is more than we can ever imagine to begin with. What seems to be impossible at first turns out to be possible if we stick at it.
Time for reflection
Explain that you are going to ask the school community to look in two opposite directions, like Janus.
Turning our heads to the left –
let’s remember the year that has passed
and all the friends who have shared it with us.
Let’s be thankful for all that we have learned and achieved.
Now, turning our heads to the right –
let’s look forward to the year that has begun
and resolve to live each day fully and well.
Let’s be thankful for new beginnings
and not be afraid to make the most of all the opportunities that lie ahead.