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I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day
#267 in the Celebration Hymnal

You all know this Christmas Carol—it has been sung in many versions. Have you listened to the words? They are perfect for this time of year—bringing joy and rejoicing in the angel’s song while also reflecting the truth that some are not in peace and some places are not safe in our lives. As we enter the Christmas session and then the cold days of January, we long for a true light that shines past the Holiday. As is often true of the Gospel, Jesus speaks Life right here in the darkness and messiness of living, not in an unreal pretend state of nice and sterile. This carol is a version of the Gospel for us today as our nation seems divided and war and economic uncertainty abound and peace on earth seems now a distant thought.

One of those listening [to Paul and Silas] was a woman named Lydia, a dealer in fine purple cloth from the city of Thyatira who was a worshipper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s preaching. After she and her whole household were baptized, she invited us to her home.”
-Acts 16:14-15

This Advent/Christmas Season we are invited to open our homes and our hearts to God. It is often the practice at the Holidays to be with family, to eat together and exchange gifts and have fun. There is something so inviting about being in a warm home, with fun and laughter and good food. This opening of your home, of offering food and welcome, of giving warmth in terms of temperature and temperament—this concept in the Bible is called Hospitality. The Advent Season has been one of not only welcoming Christ
into our homes but of opening homes to practice this mark of God’s people just as the lights and gifts are.

As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete.
My command is this: love one another as I have loved you.
- John 15: 9, 11-12

I went to a workshop in early October presented by the Lakeshore Center (Camp) and the Presbytery. It was entitled Congregational Vitality 101. We talked about what research said was present in congregations that are healthy. It is true that no one congregation has 100% of these markers, but the more you have the better. As you read this list consider which are strengths and which need some growth here at First Presbyterian Church in Lake Park:

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    Lake Park, IA 51347
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