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Happy holidays to you and yours, Beloveds,

I write this to you on the first eve of Hanukkah with snow blowing and falling all around our Salish Sea. On this reverent snowy eve, I'm reminded of those of us who have spent portions of our faith journeys in Judaism, where midwinter's Hanukkah honors the Maccabees' faith and miracle in maintaining the sacred light in their temple after invasion by a foreign force. Friends! I find such inspiration in Hanukkah this year as our congregation, too, has been able to return to our sacred church to keep our light of truth, trust, and peace burning brightly after the world's invasion by a different force – a viral pandemic.

All through this month of December and thanks to so many, Evergreen's longstanding home is once again glowing with warmth, light, and fresh air! During these longest nights in our hemisphere, with our precious planet rounding its furthest turn through the darkness of space back toward our life-giving sun, I pray you and yours are feeling blessed that Evergreen's light remains resilient. Many of you have been able to come to the church on Sundays to lend your inner light to our gatherings. Seeing one another in person again, sharing embraces and laughter, bedecks our Sunday mornings with spirited hope for the new year to come.

We have so many blessings to be grateful for this season: Grateful that we do have a spiritual home to return to when so many do not; the blessings of friends here who have covenanted to support your faith journey; grateful to be one beloved community among many who support others not merely with words, but with deeds. Deeds like donating household items to Ukrainian refugees and others who need our help in their brave journeys for safety and truth. Any item from your home, any supply from your go-to store will be gratefully received in our vestibule collection bins and put to vital daily use by all ages. Perhaps this Christmas, Hanukkah, Solstice you'll share gifts for the county's refugees as you and yours honor Hanukkah's miracle of sacred light, or the birth of a prophet of peace, or the restful dormancy of blessed starry nights.

As we gather in a few days to celebrate Christmas Eve and the births of prophets of peace, I hope you and yours can join us. We'll fill our spiritual home with live piano music, holiday singing, candlelight, and conviviality to bring to life how our faith never dims or dies no matter how long the nights of our journeys last. Our welcoming love and trust is here for you whenever you need it on your faith journey.

So, beloveds, as you read this, may it comfort you to know each day is now growing a bit brighter. And a new year is only days away.

I know many of us are anticipating our move to a different physical home. Your lay leaders, staff, and volunteers have been hard at work fleshing out the phases of this work -- getting the building in a sellable state, finding a temporary rental space, then considering what our next longer term home might be. As you can imagine, this information gathering is both enthralling and challenging as all of us share our hopes for a physical home that can positively influence our congregational life.

In the meantime, as we wait for a buyer to come to us in the new year, my conversations with many of you have revealed joyous expressions of relief about taking a break from maintaining a large property; enthusiasm for potentially expanding Evergreen's opportunities to share some social justice and all ages education and interdependent agape; hope for improved physical and digital accessibility for all, and more. How about a hearty New Year's toast to that!

But that is all in the new year to come.

In this present deep winter moment, Beloveds, I find myself inspired by you. My prayers are yet again grateful -- as I hope yours may be, too -- for Evergreen's mutual, faithful service and courage.

I pray you and yours enjoy rest, comfort, reassurance, and gifts of love during your holidays.

With agape and peace,

Warmly,

Rev. Joe

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