Sing aloud to God our strength, shout for joy to the God of Jacob. Raise a song, sound the tambourine, the sweet lyre with the harp. Blow the trumpet at the new moon, at the full moon, on our festal day. (Psalm 81: 1-2)
As I have looked back over the past year, I am deeply aware that life has gotten incredibly serious. Each of us makes hard decisions every day. Like… Do we go into the grocery store or do we order online for curbside pickup? Do we gather with friends for dinner outside – even if we aren’t sure how careful they have been about exposure? Do we share a holiday meal via Zoom or in person? That list of serious questions goes on and on.
And yet. The scriptures are full of invitations to be joyful, even in the midst of hard times. From Miriam dancing and singing on the banks of the Red Sea to the Apostle Paul exhorting us to joyful faith, it is clear that joy in the face of struggle and sorrow is an important (but challenging) part of faithfulness.
One of the little bits of “New Year’s joy” in my life came to me a long time ago through a dear friend, and I pass it along to you as a bit of whimsy for these last days of Christmastide. In my friend’s childhood, when Christmas felt over and it was time to ring in the new year, there would be one last celebration of holiday generosity and joy. On New Year’s Eve (but it could be anytime during Christmastide) – after everyone had gone to sleep – “Mrs Belsnick” would arrive with one last present. It was always small. Something that might have been forgotten in the bottom of Santa’s bag of toys. My friend has no memory of how this tradition began, and maybe that’s the best thing about traditions. It quickly became a favorite tradition in our household!
When I went looking for background, it does seem as though there was a character called “Belsnick” in Germany and Eastern Europe who has gone out of favor with Christmas storytellers in today’s world. With good reason! Belsnick was charged with ruining Christmas for the children! But the mythical Mrs. Belsnick transformed his “Bah! Humbug!” into one more celebration of joy and merrymaking for children. And perhaps there is a lesson in that for all of us. As we move into 2021, I wonder how and where I might find opportunities to be a “Mrs. Belsnick” – spreading joy in the dark of night or transforming the challenges of these days with a little whimsey and fun. It might become a mission for each one of us in these days!
Rev. Katherine Mulhern,
Retired Minister and NUCC Member
For those who wait
God of love and peace and hope and joy, touch us in these days with a bit of whimsey and laughter. Help us to carry the generosity of Christmastide into the new year. May we honor the seriousness of this time without taking ourselves too seriously. And may the gifts we name in Advent find their way into our celebrations of Epiphany. Amen.