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Happy New Year! It is hard to believe that another year now begins to fade into a memory and we now have the clean slate of the coming year. As we turn the page between 2021 and 2022, some things will be left behind, but other things are still waiting for our attention as we cross the threshold between the years. Our sermon series to start 2022 is The Joy of the Lord is Our Strength. We hope your Christmas season was joyful and we want to enhance that joy by building upon it as we start the New Year. Yet, it has to be a different sort of joy. As we go through Christmas, we sense the celebration of new birth and God coming to dwell among us. At the New Year, however, we realize the party is over and the gifts have lost their charm. Where is the joy? We turn to Nehemiah 8:10-17. Our sermon series title is taken from Nehemiah 8:10. Nehemiah is an amazing person because he risks his life to answer God’s call to rebuild the walls to the city of Jerusalem. It is a time of transition for Jerusalem because a large number of people have returned to the city under the leadership of Ezra the scribe, after being exiled to Babylon. They manage to do a miraculous feat! They rebuild the walls of Jerusalem despite hardship and opposition. After finishing the walls, they hold celebration with the reading of God’s law. As they listen to these words they are heartbroken, how could God be happy with them? Nehemiah and the leaders remind them that it was not a day for despair or sorrow because God had brought them home and helped them rebuild! This was God’s day and God’s joy was their strength! As we read these words, we wonder how is this possible for us? In the sermon Renewing Worship, we learn that these events can lead us to a strong and lasting joy for all of our lives. This is our New Year’s prayer for you that you will sense the strength of this joy rising in your heart as you read Nehemiah 8:10-17: Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” 11 The Levites calmed all the people, saying, “Be still, for this is a holy day. Do not grieve.” 12 Then all the people went away to eat and drink, to send portions of food and to celebrate with great joy, because they now understood the words that had been made known to them. 13 On the second day of the month, the heads of all the families, along with the priests and the Levites, gathered around Ezra the teacher to give attention to the words of the Law. 14 They found written in the Law, which the LORD had commanded through Moses, that the Israelites were to live in temporary shelters during the festival of the seventh month 15 and that they should proclaim this word and spread it throughout their towns and in Jerusalem: “Go out into the hill country and bring back branches from olive and wild olive trees, and from myrtles, palms and shade trees, to make temporary shelters”– as it is written. 16 So the people went out and brought back branches and built themselves temporary shelters on their own roofs, in their courtyards, in the courts of the house of God and in the square by the Water Gate and the one by the Gate of Ephraim. 17 The whole company that had returned from exile built temporary shelters and lived in them. From the days of Joshua son of Nun until that day, the Israelites had not celebrated it like this. And their joy was very great.  (NIV)