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Joy in the House!

 Sunday, December 4, 2023, the 2nd Sunday of Advent was Joy Sunday at Lenape Valley in name and reality. Joy filled the house that day! Before the sun rose… before many of us opened our eyes to the day… joy began to fill the house of the Lord located on the corner of Ute and Butler. Nestled in the kitchen of the church, a dedicated team of chefs began preparing a feast for the people of God. These old friends have made many LVC meals over the years to support our youth mission trips. As they worked, the kitchen filled with laughter and then the smells of good old-fashioned home cooking. Eggs scrambled… batter stirred… gridles heated… sausage roasted in the oven… Soon teens arrived to set tables and prepare to welcome their guests. By the time people began to arrive, the smells of a feast filled every nook and cranny of the church. One whiff… one glimpse of a teenage smile… and joy rippled through one person after the next.

Then the worship hour came, and the smells of joy transformed into the robust sounds of Joy to the World. The joy in the sanctuary grew as our little ones sat at Carol Stern’s feet to hear another of her original Nativity stories. Little Liam’s rendition of a rooster crowing brought laughter that celebrated a new generation growing up in the faith. Minutes later, joy invited us to the Table of the Lord to share a feast offered by Jesus himself. The final strains of Always-

Your mercy is mighty age after age And all generations will bow down and praise The Lord is faithful Yesterday, now and always

transported our joyful gathering back across the lobby and into Fellowship Hall for the next seating of the feast. What a joy to see Fellowship Hall filled once more. What a joy to hear the sounds of conversation around the table- old friendships renewed, new friendships formed, our children laughing as they created Christmas crafts prepared by our Fellowship team. I have to admit that my joy was crushed just a bit when my chocolate-loving heart discovered that we are a majority blueberry pancake fellowship. I still have much work to do to convert our church family to the most excellent way!

 One of my final conversations on Sunday was with a family, donning Eagles’ colors. My question about whether the Eagles were going to win that day was met with a resounding: YES! That table of fans is certain that we will go 16-1 for the season. Like many of you, I am a rather happy Eagles’ fan these days. It is fun to watch our quarterback throw and scramble for more yardage than we have seen in years. Some of us even dare to imagine another run at the title. All was light and joyful in the conversation at that table until they asked about the Christmas Eve schedule. I gladly responded that we will offer a 5pm Family Candlelight service and a 7:30pm Classic Candlelight service on Christmas Eve. They then informed me that the Eagles are playing at 4:25pm that day. 4:25pm!!! Who in their right mind schedules a football game in competition with Christmas Eve worship services? If you come to the 5pm service, you will miss the middle of the game. If you come to the 7:30pm service, you will miss the final plays. For some in our church fellowship, this conflict presents a challenging dilemma, especially since we are playing our archrivals- the Cowboys. Oh, how the world tries to distract us!

The first NFL games played on Christmas day happened in 1971. That day the Cowboys beat the Vikings 20-12, and the Chiefs beat the Dolphins 27-24 in the longest game in NFL history. The league came under fire that year for intruding on a traditional religious and family holiday. A Kansas state legislator proposed a bill in their State House to ban the scheduling of future games on December 25th. The choice to play two divisional playoff games on Christmas Day that year proved so unpopular that the league avoided any more games on Christmas Day until 1989. But this year, 50 years after those first Christmas Day games, there will be 11 games played on Christmas Eve and 3 games played back-to-back on Christmas Day… a non-stop lineup of distractions for football fans.

Those of you who are not football fans may marvel at, perhaps even judge, those who will struggle with the choices posed by all those televised games. But this conundrum leaves me wondering about all the other things that distract us at Christmas time- gift buying, food preparation, family dynamics, decorating. We have so filled this season with distractions, it is often hard to find Jesus in all the chaos. But on Sunday, I watched a family take their son over to the creche scene set on the marble communion table. They took the time to tell the story, pointing out each figure in the creche. The little one noticed that this year we even have a rooster waiting for the arrival of baby Jesus. For a moment, that family focused their mind and heart on the reason for our joy. On Christmas Eve, we invite you to bring “Gifts for Baby Jesus”… diapers, wipes, clothes, toys… that will be given to little ones at the Cradle of Hope in Glenside. Each gift, each baby blessed, calls us back again to the reason for our joy. Many of us have been reading the Devotional stories written by our own friends at LVC. Each story calls us back to the reason for our joy. Distractions abound. It takes intentional choices to refocus our minds and hearts on the One who is the reason for true joy. Take a moment… or two … or three… and remember that Christmas is the celebration of how God so loved the world that He sent His only Son.

With you seeking the One who is the reason, Anita
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