And so the time has come at last… Christmas Eve.

But before the visions of sugarplums arrive or we set off to dream of mouse kings and nutcrackers at play, and even before we gather for worship tonight, it is worth pausing for a moment to consider all that we have done together throughout this season of Advent.

From the very beginning of this holy season, we have been hosting events for our community in the Sanctuary, including three special concerts for the Blair Academy of Sacred Music, the Altoona Brass Collective, and Fantazia & the Chamber Strings Orchestra from Hollidaysburg High School.

We adopted eighteen young people for American Rescue Workers this year, which is 150% of what we did last year. That is over fifty gifts in total for children ranging in age from several months to teenagers. Some were enjoying their very first Christmas with their family and some their last as children.

We had twenty-three children from nine families participate in our annual Nativity Play, which the younger children actually helped to write this year. And the older younglings very willingly rolled with acting out whatever they needed to in order to fulfill the wishes of their younger counterparts.

Our children met with Santa Claus. Those who needed it found hope at Blue Christmas. All of our musical groups have been working diligently and leading worship nearly non-stop. And we had a new member join on Advent II.

All in all, not a bad beginning to the new liturgical year.

What has brought me more joy than anything, however, is seeing our members and friends continue to grow as family of faith together. Whether it was the way the children interact with one another. Or the adults gathering to speak during the concerts. Or the families who are returning throughout the holidays reuniting on Sundays. There is nothing more wonderful than to see and hear our church family reconnecting after so much separation.

As we gather tonight to celebrate the wonder of God coming into our midst, may we all remember that our God has never left. God is still here. And the Love we celebrate on Christmas is still among us, ready to be let loose in the world.

Blessings, Pastor Janie

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