Once again, happy advent. These last two weeks as we have lit the candles for hope and peace, I have prayed for exactly those two things in our community. Hope that this is the place where you feel the presence of God, and peace that through all the moments of life, you know that God is with you. That is what I love most about advent. There are touchstone concepts that remind us that what we long for in this world is not as complicated as we make it. We need hope; something to look forward to. We need peace; the ability to be present with our God and each other. We need Joy; the ability to relish in the abundant gifts of God. We need love; God’s eternal grace. And although we need each of these, this week we are going to focus on joy.
One of the happiest days of my life was when my niece was born; June 19, 2017. She was and is a perfect example of God’s love and hope in the world. However, the day she was born was filled with a bit of sadness, as I was not able to be present in California for her birth. It was 2 days after I landed in New York to start my new job at The Park. But tinged with longing to be with my family, I celebrated the day she was born.
So often we let our fears and anxieties, loss and regrets keep us from having fully present moments of joy. Moments where we do nothing but celebrate the abundant gifts of God’s grace and the incredible joy of our created life. The moment of my niece’s birth reminded me that I will miss so many things in her life, but I decided to put those anxieties aside and simply celebrate that Chloe was here. That is what we get to do this Christmas. Celebrate the birth of Jesus with Joy. Present Joy. Baby Joy. Holy Joy.
“Rejoice in the Savior always! I say it again: Rejoice! Let everyone see your forbearing spirit. Our Savior is near. Dismiss all anxiety from your minds; instead, present your needs to God through prayer and petition, giving thanks for all circumstances. Then God’s own peace, which is beyond all understanding, will stand guard over your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:4-7)
When we have a joyful experience, our life changes. That moment can never be created again. Its presence changes us irrevocably. That is because life’s joyful moments reflect the joy that we experience in the birth of our Savior. The birth of Jesus, our Holy Joy, calls us to be present and in the face of all of creation. Those that welcome us in their homes, those that tell us there is no room, and those that share in life’s big moments with us.
Friends, I hope this week brings you the joy of your family, friends, coworkers, and church. So much is happening in our lives, take this week to breathe in and take a moment for joy. Take a moment to be joyful for the coming of the Christ child.
A short prayer for your week: Lord, we give thanks and joy for all that you have brought us this year and all that you will bring in the coming weeks. Amen.
Children and Youth Ministry Update
Dear Park People,
On Sunday December 9th, The Park Sunday school children read Malachi 3:1-2, and discussed the idea of preparing God’s way in our hearts and communities, by expressing our love for other people. For our creative response activity, we made Christmas cards for people we love, with pictures and words, to show how much we love them.
On Sunday December 16th, we will read Philippians 4:4-7. We will talk about the things that make us feel like rejoicing in God, and various ways that we can live our joy, during Advent. For our creative response activity, we will make jingle bell bracelets, to wear and to give as gifts. They will be not just adornments, but wearable percussion instruments, for dancing with jingly joy!
Rev. Francesca Fortunato: Children’s Minister