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O Come, All Ye Faithful, Joyful and Triumphant

‘Tis the season for great food, wonderful friends, fabulous parties and loving families. Most of us have our favorite dishes we look forward to and traditions that still stir a deep feeling of joy and anticipation after many years. We look forward to being with old friends and sharing our lives as we catch up on the happenings in theirs. We talk about our families and that grandma still has the best recipe for stuffing. We talk about things that bring us joy.

2017 was a year full of joy. We participated in exciting ministries, wonderful mission trips, great fellowship and moving worship. We have responded to hurricanes, loneliness, the needs of local school children and homelessness and brought joy to so many. Laurel Heights is a vibrant and relevant congregation in ministry with those around us. As a congregation we came together to celebrate the life and ministry of 13 Saints and I am excited to watch as new leadership steps up to carry on their legacy. This is a wonderfully diverse congregation, rich in history and burning with vision. This diversity and vision is the result of faithful leadership provided by the laity. I hope each of you will seek to be part of this dynamic leadership team anytime the opportunity is provided.

We continue to grow slowly and solidly both in numbers and in devotion. The cost and the demand on our resources continues to increase; and yet, so do the number of people contributing through prayers, presence, gifts, service and witness. The way we understand “people in our care” is growing and so are the hearts of those who welcome them and support those ministries. Our vocabulary has grown along with our ability to use this new voice to proclaim the Gospel. There are so many ministries that have been done with great devotion.

We are all familiar with the Christmas story as told by Luke. We see the shepherds as people like ourselves. We look at the stable and manger scene and realize one of the blessings of Jesus being born in a stable, to a family with a troubled reputation, whose first visitors were some of the most marginalized of society is that everyone is welcome. Everyone nurtured by Laurel Heights finds a safe place to learn and grow. Children learn not only what it means to be loved but to love others. Members and visitors learn to believe in themselves as loved children of God. We each remember what it means to have hopes and dreams beyond what our culture and environment tells us is possible.

I hope you and your family will make plans to attend our annual Festival of Lessons and Carols on the evening of December 17. The following Sunday is the Fourth Sunday of Advent as well as Christmas Eve with five opportunities for worship. At the 8:30 and 11:00 service we will light the fourth Advent Candle. The Christ Candle will be lit later that day at the three Christmas Eve Services.

At 4:00 we will offer a child-friendly Candlelight Communion Service. At 7:00 we will have a Candlelight Service with choirs. At 11:00 that evening we will offer a Candlelight Communion Service. Each service is special and unique.

As you gather over the holidays and prepare for Christmas and the coming of Christ, may you be deeply and keenly aware of the many blessings God has provided and the love of Christ that surrounds you all year through.

See you Sunday,
Jim

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