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Standing at the Door

An assembly for the new year

by Laurence Chilcott

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)

Aims

To consider the challenges and opportunities that a new year brings.

Preparation and materials

Assembly

  1. Show the image of the Roman god, Janus.

    Ask the students what they think the image depicts.

    Listen to a range of responses.

  2. Explain that the image is of the Roman god, Janus.

    Point out that teachers sometimes tell students that they have eyes in the back of their head. There are times when it can feel like teachers can tell what is happening in the classroom even if they are facing the other way.

    The Roman god, Janus, was depicted with not just eyes, but a full face in the back of his head! Janus was known as the god of doors and doorways, and it was thought that because he had two faces, he could see forwards and backwards at the same time. In fact, January - the first month of the year - is named after him.

  3. Show the images of the different doors.

    Ask the students whether they can recognize any of these famous doors.

    - The first one is the Gringotts vault door from the film, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.
    The second one is the door to the Great Hall from the Harry Potter films.
    The third one is the door of 10 Downing Street.
    The fourth one is the door of Bilbo Baggins’ house from the film, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.

  4. Explain that the new year is often regarded as an unopened door because we are uncertain about what we may find on the other side. We may have some idea of what lies behind a door, but we cant be certain: behind the reinforced steel door of a safe, we might expect to find precious jewels or banknotes, but it may be empty; behind a secret door in the library of a stately home, we might expect to find a secret passage, but there may be just a dusty cupboard full of cobwebs; the huge, black, nailed door to a castle may open not to knights in armour, but to sad ruins and leaning towers.

  5. Suggest that a closed door may hide secrets, protect against the weather or be locked against intruders, but an open door is an invitation to enter. It offers an invitation, a welcome and acceptance. As we stand before the door of the new year, it is closed to us, but we hope that when it is opened, we will not be disappointed.

  6. Point out that people often try to get the new year off to a good start by making resolutions. A resolution is always something positive, something that we think could make us better people. Unfortunately, we can find them very difficult to keep and they are often broken before the month is out! Nevertheless, it is good to look back at the year that has passed and look for ways that we can improve in the next.

  7. Ask the students to quietly consider the following questions.

    First, lets look at school.

    - How hard did you work in school last year?
    - Did you do the best you could, or were you satisfied with just finishing each task as it came?
    - Were there things that you just couldn’t be bothered with, so you left them unfinished?
    - Did you contribute and put effort into collaborative work or did you sit back and let others do it?

    When we reflect upon our work, we may well see that things could be better in the coming year.

    Now, lets open out the questions to life in general.

    - How did you treat others last year?
    - Were you thoughtful and considerate with your friends or selfish and demanding at times?
    - Were you jealous of your friendships and not prepared to share them with anyone else?
    - Did you sometimes say things about someone else that werent true, or that you knew would hurt or upset them?

    Perhaps we will try to treat others as we would like to be treated this year.

  8. Point out that a good thing about being human is that we can change, we can reflect upon the past and we can put things right. It’s not always easy and we will sometimes fail, but it is worth the effort.

  9. Peter, one of Jesus disciples, knew exactly how it felt to fail to keep a resolution. When Jesus told the disciples that he would be arrested and that they would desert him, Peter promised that he would not leave Jesus and that he was even prepared to die with him if necessary. However, only hours later, Peter was telling people that he didn’t even know Jesus. Desperately ashamed, Peter must have felt a complete failure, but it was he who was to become a leader of the early Christian Church.

Time for reflection

We don’t know what lies ahead of us in the coming year, but the words that King George VI quoted in his Christmas message in 1939, a few months after the Second World War had begun, offer a suggestion.

And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year:
‘Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.’
And he replied:
Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the hand of God.
That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.’

(Taken from the poem, God knows, by Minnie Louise Haskins (1875–1957))

Ask the students to think back to when they were younger, when holding an adult’s hand gave them security and confidence. Christians believe that security and confidence can come from faith and trust in the presence of God in their lives.

Encourage the students to reflect upon the fact that we all fail in some way, but it is how we react to failure that is the important thing.

This might be a good opportunity to communicate whole-school intentions for the coming year.

Prayer
Dear God,
As we look back on the past year, we ask for forgiveness:
For the times when we have failed to do what we knew was right;
For the times when we thought only about ourselves;
For the times when we ignored the feelings of others.
Help us to face the new year with confidence and trust.
May we do what is good, right and fair.
May we treat others with love.
May we encourage peace.
Amen.

Publication date: January 2020   (Vol.22 No.1)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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