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3rd Sunday in Advent- JOY

JOY- a simple word… just three letters… yet those three letters express a deep yearning of our hearts. At Christmas we often sing “Rejoice”- which means to Joy again and again and again… But with all that is going on in the world, sometimes Joy is hard to find! Until we stop long enough to celebrate God’s goodness in our midst. Since Joy has three letters, today I will celebrate in threes… three people, three places, three events that have brought JOY!
The first person that comes to mind is little Chloe Kelly, a four-year-old dynamo! When Chloe was just four months old, she was diagnosed with a seizure disorder that has impacted her development. Imagine the challenge of doing OT, PT, and Speech therapy virtually with a preschooler, yet Chloe’s amazing mom made it happen. Some would look at Chloe and see her challenges, but Chloe is joyful… she is the living embodiment of the word “Rejoice”! Watching Chloe dance at church is pure JOY.

Mark Hintenlang inspires Joy even from his hospital room. Many of you can remember Mark playing the trumpet, serving as an Elder, and wielding a hammer and a paint brush to make our building nice. But now a brain tumor is stealing away his speech and mobility. Yet, every time I visit, Mark greets me with a smile and his indomitable humor. I’m surprised by JOY every time.

We have a new Genesis crew… eight teenagers who are sharing a faith journey this year. They are smart, inquisitive, funny, and oh so kind to each other. My Mondays now end with such JOY because I have the privilege of sitting at the table with Genesis!
The first place that comes to mind is my kitchen. Like many of your homes, the Bell kitchen is the gathering place. We love to cook together, often stealing a taste along the way. On Thanksgiving, our kitchen was crowded, noisy, messy… and filled with JOY! Give me that Joyful mess any day!

The parking lot of Lenape Valley is a magical place at sunset. If you stand on the pavement and aim toward Pine Run Elementary just before the sun sets, you will often be treated with the most amazing sight… God’s artwork painted on the sky… and there is JOY!

The Sanctuary at Lenape Valley is by far one of my favorite places in the world. Season after season Diane orchestrates the decorations that inspire heart and mind. In that room, the people of God make a Joyful noise- I think even the angels are inspired. But perhaps my favorite time is when the Sanctuary is quiet. To a casual observer it looks empty, but God is in that place… waiting… and when I sit in that “sanctuary,” I am met by the One who is JOY!
The babies are back! During the pandemic, Lenape Valley experienced a baby boom, but our families were keeping their sweet little bundles at home. On June 20th, the first family stepped into our worship space to have little Jeffrey blessed by baptism… then Sunday after Sunday… Abigail Hope, Matthew, Jackson, Kendall and Jane. Each a precious life… a family… a promise of hope! There are more in the wings… I look forward to welcoming all our families back… with their little ones adding their voices to our worship!

Today, I am in anticipatory JOY… awaiting the Christmas Concert on Sunday night. The music at Lenape Valley is always a blessing, but for this concert our music folks have outdone themselves! Don’t miss this moment… 6pm… Sunday December 19th. Bring a friend. Invite someone to livestream the event. This Concert will inspire JOY!

The event that offers lasting Joy happened 2000 years ago, when our Savior chose the cross, scorning its shame. For my sin and yours, He suffered and died to bring us life. By His wounds we are healed. (Isaiah 53:5) When Jesus rose from that tomb, He conquered death for us. Joy that knows no bounds… Joy that lasts for an eternity… Joy that welcomes us into the Father’s embrace.
A gift of threes- three people, three places, three events- nine in total for our 90th letter since the beginning of the pandemic. What joyful gifts will you add to the list?

With you celebrating the One who is Joy to the world,
Charles Spurgeon described the joy of those who walk with Jesus:
Believers are not dependent upon circumstances. Their joy comes not from what they have, but from who they are, not from where they are, but from Whose they are, not from what they enjoy, but from that which was suffered for them by their Lord.
Joy is what the Angel promised the shepherds:
“I bring you good news of great JOY… a Savior has been born to you… You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:10-12)
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