I can’t wait to see you at Christmas this year! The Flower Guild ministry has been busy this week adorning the church, our choir is carefully preparing beautiful music, the children are practicing their lines for the 3:00 pageant, and the service booklets have already arrived from the printer! In addition, Bracken Reece and his family will host a reception in Roper Hall between the 5:00 and 8:00 o’clock services this year, and when you pull up to church on Christmas Eve, glance over at the Bell Tower, which has received the “Christmas treatment.” This long, final week of Advent has given us time to get ready for Christmas, and it’s going to be magnificent.

I hope you’ve experienced a holy Advent this year. I’m grateful for the way Christmas Day falls on a Sunday this year, which meant Advent was four full weeks. Unlike so many years, in which Advent feels cramped and chaotic, this year it feels like there’s been time and space to pray and think and prepare. I hope you feel that way, too. I hope you feel like your soul has opened up just a bit more, and you have made room in your heart for Christ to enter more deeply. If not, take time to pray right now. Sit quietly and speak to God about your hopes and fears and longings. As I preached about last Sunday, the name of the one whose birth we celebrate this weekend means “Save,” and he came into the world not only in Bethlehem long ago but also wherever and whenever we are in need of salvation now. Christmas is about more than candy canes and cocoa, it’s about the Light that shines in the darkness, which no amount of darkness can or will overcome. So if you feel like you’re in darkness, do not give up. That light can and will shine for you, too.

Speaking of light shining in the darkness, this year we’ll once again give away all the money we receive at our five Christmas services (3:00, 5:00, 8:00 & 10:30 p.m. on Christmas Eve, and 10:00 a.m. on Christmas Day) that is not designated toward a pledge. With the guidance of the Outreach Committee, the Vestry has chosen to equally divide our “loose plate offering” between two light bearing, compassionate ministries: Episcopal Relief and Development’s work in Haiti after the catastrophic hurricane there earlier this year; and St. Simon’s After-School, which provides a safe, caring after-school environment for children whose parents are the working poor of our city.

So come all ye faithful, whether you are joyful and triumphant or lonely and fearful. Come and pray with us, sing with us, open your heart with us. Come this Christmas and join your hope and gratitude and need with us. Because “being with us” is really what Christmas is all about: Emmanuel, God with us…then, now, and forever.