Sheltered Reflections # 17

Updated: Jan 12

By Maureen Kalbus

Sheltering at home in the afterglow of Christmas, I am warmed by lovely, peaceful memories of time together with Ralph, and time shared with church friends and family. Without our introduction to Zoom at the outset of the Pandemic, we would have been alone. Flickering candle lights reflected kindly faces, even past neighbors and colleagues, during the latter part of the church’s Carol Service on Christmas Eve. Laughter and celebrations punctuated our five Zoom gatherings with my brother, cousins and their families over the Christmas weekend.We felt blessed as we drifted towards the New Year. Instead of focusing on the chaos, catastrophes and uncertainty in this past year, I am grateful for the many mercies we were afforded: good health for all close to us; clear prognoses; ongoing employment for our nieces; security blankets woven from the threads of love and kindness from our family and friends around the world; sunrises, glorious sunsets and the delights of nature; wonderful music and theatre in which we were virtually absorbed; the ingenuity of wizards who drew together recordings of individuals and created choral sound; the resilience of people worldwide, coping with their circumstances; the geniuses who have developed vaccines and given the world hope.

What have you appreciated in 2020?

As 2021 crept over the horizon, I did reflect on how I had seen in previous New Years. Often I had been dressed in various guises for Fancy Dress Dances at my Dad’s Golf Club in Belfast. One was in spectacular fashion on the steps of Sydney’s Opera House, with kaleidoscopic fireworks fanning the Harbour Bridge. On many, Ralph and I graced dance floors in London, then scrambled for the Tube to get back to our hotels. In recent years, we sought out local restaurants with bands playing, while this year, we were satisfied with a candlelit, catered dinner at home, then rolling up the rug in front of the television, and dancing in 2021; no streamers or balloons, just an abundance of gratitude and joy.

Meanwhile, hours before, cousins in Scotland had been immersed in Hogmanay, which usually is a bigger celebration than Christmas. Christmas only became a Public Holiday in Scotland in 1958, whereas January 1st and 2nd were always holidays. The root of Hogmanay is not entirely clear, but possibly derived from a celebration of the Winter Solstice among the Norse. Growing up next door to our Scottish neighbor, Min Wakely, we learnt first hand about customs associated with Hogmanay:

Cleaning the house from top to bottom, in order to usher out the old

Taking out the ashes from the fire

Clearing debts

Opening the back and front doors of a home, to let the old year out and the new

year in

Making noise with shouts, bells, whistles, horns, to drive out evil spirits

First footing which should involve a dark haired person not carrying anything sharp

[reflecting ancient fears of blond, Nordic invaders]

Visiting homes, and taking gifts of coal/salt/shortbread/whisky/black bun

Mounting firework displays in major cities

The singing of Robert Burns’ poem “Auld Lang Syne” set to music, is now an established tradition, world wide.

“Should auld acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind?

Should auld acquaintance be forgot, and days of auld lang syne?

For auld lang syne, my dear, for auld lang syne,

We’ll tak’ a cup o’ kindness yet, for auld lang syne...

And ther’s a hand, my trusty friend, and gie’s a hand o’ thine;

We’ll tak’ a cup o’ kindness yet, for auld lang syne.”

Usually, we associate the New Year with making resolutions. This year, I suspect that people will be more focused on what they are hoping for.

What have you learnt about yourself in 2020?

“Ring out wild bells, to the wild sky.

The flying cloud, the frosty light;

The year is dying in the night;

Ring out wild bells, and let him die.

Ring out the old, ring in the new;

Ring happy bells across the snow.

The year is going, let him go,

Ring out the false, ring in the true.”

Alfred, Lord Tennyson

“New Year met me somewhat sad;

Old Year leaves me tired,

Stripped of favourite things I had

Baulked of much desired:

Yet farther on my mind today

God willing, farther on my way.

New Year coming on spare

What have you to give me?”

Christina Rossetti

Our mindset influences what the New Year will unfold. Let’s look for and savor the joyous moments:

“Every day I see or hear

something that more or less

kills me with delight,

that leaves me like a needle

in the haystack of light.

It is what I was born for- to look, to listen,

to lose myself inside this soft world-

to instruct myself over and over

in joy and acclamation…”

From Mary Oliver’s “Mindful”

What are your hopes for 2021?

“We wait in hope for the Lord. He is our help and our shield. In Him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in His holy name. May your unfailing love rest upon us, O Lord, even as we put our hope in you.” Psalm 33 v 20-22

“A faith and knowledge resting on the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time.” Titus 1 v 2

“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.” Isa 43 v 19

“Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; He will neither fail you nor abandon you.” Deut. 31 v 8

“So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!” 2Cor 5 v 17

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make right your paths.” Prov 3 v 5-6

“ The Lord bless you and keep you

The Lord make His face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you;

The Lord lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace.” Num 6 v 24-26

Very best wishes for good, stable health, an easing of anxieties, joyful reunions, and wonderful new beginnings in the months ahead. There is so much to look forward to!

Happy New Year,

Maureen Kalbus

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First Presbyterian San Anselmo is a progressive, inclusive Christian community blessed with meaningful worship, people who care for one another, diverse ministries for all ages, and a passion for justice and service.


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72 Kensington Road

San Anselmo, CA  94960


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