Tag Archives: Angels

December 27 service

Special note:  The final worship service of 2015 continued the Christmas story much in the same fashion as the annual gathering–scripture and hymns/carols.  The key was to ask reflective questions and know it is time to look at our responsibility to continue telling the story as carefully as Luke did when he wrote the gospel to Theophilus.  I am simply going to include the structure for Sunday’s service for review and reflection.


The Prelude: The prelude signals time to prepare for worship, lit candles represents Christ is with us, and *starred listings suggest standing if able.

Welcoming & sharing time: Birthdays, anniversaries, prayers answered or prayers needed.

Luke 1: Dedication to Theophilus (to each of us)

1 Since many have undertaken to set down an orderly account of the events that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed on to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, I too decided, after investigating everything carefully from the very first,[a] to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the truth concerning the things about which you have been instructed.

*Hymn Congregation will choose the hymns . . .”What Child Is This” and “Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee”

Luke 1 . . . The birth of John the Baptist foretold

11 Then there appeared to him an angel of the Lord, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. 12 When Zechariah saw him, he was terrified; and fear overwhelmed him. 13 But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John. 14 You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, 15 for he will be great in the sight of the Lord.

Question to reflect upon: Do you hear the message the angel brings?

Talking with God:

  • Silent prayer: This is a time to talk and listen to God, privately..
  • The Lord’s Prayer: UMC uses “trespasses,” but “sin” may be used.

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.

Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done

on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread.

And forgive us our trespasses/sins,

as we forgive those who trespass/sin against us.

And lead us not into temptation,

but deliver us from evil.

For thine is the kingdom, the power

and the glory, forever. –Amen

Hymn Congregation’s choice. . .   “It Came upon the Midnight Clear”

Kids’ Learning Time:     Hearing vs Listening

Luke 1 . . . The birth of Jesus foretold

30 The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. 33 He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”


Acts of thanksgiving:

     Offering: Members pray and support God’s work; guests are here to worship.

*The Doxology: Found in the hymnal, no. 95

*Prayer of thanks:   Thank you, God, for all the blessings you have provided. May these offerings continue to bless others during these difficult times. –Amen

*Hymn Congregation’s choice. . .  “Away in the Manger

Luke 2 . . . The Birth of Jesus 

In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

*Hymn Congregation’s choice. . .  “O Little Town of Bethlehem”

Luke 2 . . . The Shepherds and the Angels

In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: 11 to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah,[i] the Lord. 12 This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host,[j] praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”[k]

Question to reflect upon:

Do you hear the angels or do you listen to the angels?

Luke 2 . . .But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.

*Hymn 251 Go Tell It on the Mountain

*Closing benediction: Thank you for joining in worship.

The postlude: This musical benediction provides final moments for prayer   and/or reflection. Please honor this time with silence.

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Angels of Peace: Are you an angel?

given on the fourth Sunday of Advent, December 20, 2015

Scripture references: Micah 5:2-5a (from the Common Lectionary)

A Ruler from Bethlehem

2 [a]But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah,
are only a small village among all the people of Judah.
Yet a ruler of Israel,
whose origins are in the distant past,
will come from you on my behalf.
The people of Israel will be abandoned to their enemies
until the woman in labor gives birth.
Then at last his fellow countrymen
will return from exile to their own land.
And he will stand to lead his flock with the Lord’s strength,
in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.
Then his people will live there undisturbed,
for he will be highly honored around the world.

5aAnd he will be the source of peace.




The last Sunday of Advent and the calendar shows that we are speeding toward Christmas Day. Our human nature finds us in a frenzy as we finish up the shopping and the meal preparations. The house gets a cleaning, and the bags may even need packing for the journey to Grandma’s house. Peace is not an appropriate descriptor many might use to describe how they feel.

In the midst of chaos, peace is elusive. Yet, the coming of Christ was to bring peace to God’s people. Has Christ provided you peace? Have you shared the Christmas story with others providing them a sense of peace? Are you an angel of peace?

During the past four weeks, the scriptures have shared the story of the Israelites who were no longer living according to God’s law. The trials and tribulations of the people had eroded their relationship with God. And despite all of God’s attempts to tell the people how to live out their faith and to remain loyal to God, the people did not hear his message.

When people do not hear God, he sent messengers—he even sent angels. Today, do we hear God’s message? Are we aware of the messengers that do all they can to make sure that you know that loving God with all your heart will bring you peace?

Compare our lives today to those of the Israelites. The world remains infested with evil. Greed overpowers even the richest businessmen are out of control wanting more and more. Decisions are made based on dollars not on what is best for the humans, but what is best for the profit margin.

How can a world find peace in the midst of this mindset? It takes angels of peace. Certainly heavenly angels are trying their best to alert us to our sad state of Christian affairs. Many of us had parents who did their best to teach us the Golden Rule. They were real life angels present in our lives doing all they could to provide us peace.

Of course peace is defined in our minds two different ways. First, we think of peace among the nations. Our world continues to struggle with peace among the nations and now we have trouble identifying the source of conflict because it is no longer defined by political boundaries.

Now conflict is found between ideologies. The geographical and political boundaries no longer contain the conflict because the worldwide web has erased identifiable locations of conflict. How does God’s world find peace when armies cannot defend one another from such conflicts?

The answer comes from God himself: Love one another as one wants to be loved. God knew that the Law of Moses was too complicated, too inflexible, and the people needed peace. To live in peace, even the slaves, God had sent angels. He had even had prophets warning the people to follow the law, and finally prophets shared the message that a ruler would appear to lead the people back to God, back to peace.

Peace has another meaning, a very personal one. Peace for ones’ own self comes from a healthy relationship with God. The type of peace God provides each one of his children radiates outward from those who love God and share the message of his love with others. Peace-filled Christians are real-life angels in the midst of chaos.

The question then is, are you an angel. Are you peace-filled and eager to share that peace with others? Look around you. You can easily identify those among your family and friends who are at peace within them. They are the angels in our community. They are the ones who love one another, as they want to be loved.

When Micah prophesized that God would send a new ruler, even he did not say that the ruler was a political figure who would use political power and earthly justice to bring peace. His prophecy provided clues to who this ruler would be and the people drew their own conclusions—that is if they heard Micah’s prophecy.

Peace in our world cannot happen until the people find peace in a strong relationship with God. Each one of us has a responsibility to serve as an angel of peace in our own homes, our communities, and in our world. The best Christmas gift you can give—first to yourself—is a close relationship with God. Equipped with God’s love, you are ready to be the angels in your corner of the world. You will give the gift of love to each and every other person you meet.

Giving love to one another is the greatest gift of all. Giving that love creates peace. Peace within each individual also leads to peace within the community, the nation and the world.

Go ahead, then: Give love this Christmas and you will receive peace. Give love and you give peace, too. Giving love provides peace that gives hope to those who have lost hope. Give love and the peace that follows will fill you and others with joy.

Finally, when our communities are filled with people loving one another, the evil and the chaos disappears. The people who love God will serve as angels of peace transforming the chaotic world into a peace-filled world. God’s gift to us becomes our gift to God: PEACE.

Closing prayer

Merry Christmas, God!


How amazing is the gift of your son.

Thank you for loving us so much

That you sent your son so we may have peace.


As we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ,

Help us provide hope for the lost

By loving one another as we want to be loved.


With each smile we share,

with each hug we give,

May we serve as angels of peace.


With the birth of the Messiah

You gave all of your children

Hope, love, joy and peace.


May our giving be a symbol

Of your greatest gift of all,

The Savior, the prince of peace. –Amen



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Angels of Joy: Haniel and Others We May Know

given on the third Sunday of Advent, December 14, 2015


Joy to the World! The song seems to say so much, but how can we consider joy in the world today? In fact, joy seems like a missing emotion from our world because there has been so much negativity being broadcast at us from every medium. So how do we address this quandary?

Turn to scripture. Turn to the teachings of Jesus, Son of God, as he taught the apostles and the other followers—even he referenced angels. Therefore today’s Christians can accept the reality of angels as part of God’s universe. What is unclear comes down to the 21st century need to have a definitive answer as to who and/or what is/are angels.

Today, though, presume all that you know about angels supports our understanding that angels are the messengers from God; today, let us consider that there is an angel of joy who is in charge of one’s supply of joy.

According to two websites, angels are indeed real and they have a role within God’s heavenly structure. On the website angels.about.com the articles provide the background on Haniel, the archangel of joy. Reading through the article provides the definition of joy along with the methods to be joy-filled—angels are God’s messengers, remember.

Consider this: How can joy be defined? In the classroom, joy is discussed as an example of an abstract noun.   It is a thing that is not defined by any concrete item. It is an idea or an emotion. But joy certainly is not a trait that can be identified in each person; in fact, many people seem to be missing joy in their life.

Ask kids what joy is. The answers may range from a favorite food to a favorite toy or maybe a favorite person. Some kids may start to talk about joy and discover that things do not really explain joy. The answer may shift to ideas such as joy is when you make a home run or a touchdown.

Adults might say that joy is not a thing, but a thing can make you happy. Joy sometimes is identified as being happy; but if one is happy, are they joy-filled? What, then, creates joy?

A joy-filled life is a God-filled life. Whatever one does, joy is a result of following God’s law of loving one another as one wants to be loved. Living a God-centered, God-filled life means serving one another. It means finding God in everything.   It means seeing God in the midst of tragedy and celebration.

Haniel, the archangel of joy, may not be familiar in the Western Christian world. But in the study of angels, Haniel is one of the archangels possessing special qualities that provide joy to humans. Interestingly, artists may have a special relationship with Haniel.

The website about.com provides this description of Haniel:


[Haniel] . . . directs people who are searching for fulfillment to God-the source of all joy—and encourages them to stop looking for joy in their circumstances (which can’t reliably deliver joy) and start pursuing relationships with God (9n which they can truly find lasting joy).


The explanation continues to say that

Haniel is one of the chief angels [i.e. an archangel] who rules over the classes of angels called the principalities and virtues, according to Jewish tradition.


Principalities, in the Jewish tradition, try to influence leaders to follow God’s will while virtues inspire artists and scientists to new works.

Religious leaders in all denominations should follow the same work. The drive to keep our world God-centered would create a peaceful world. This is the gift God wanted us to have. He uses angels to share that message with us now as he has done since the beginning of time and will through time unending.

If we look around at the people we have in our lives, we can see examples of those who are joy-filled. Analyze what it is that makes them joy-filled. Do they live a life of service to others? Do they live life making an effort to acquire things? Do they know God? Do they live a Christ-like life?

One of the common traits joy-filled individuals possess is selflessness. Little is important unless it makes someone else happy. Real-life angels of joy have the ability to meet the needs of others in unexpected, creative ways that provide happiness and potentially open their lives to the joy of a God-centered life.

One of the web articles included a prayer to Haniel that includes key ideas of how to develop a joyful life:

  • Find fulfillment in God, the source of all joy,
  • Pursue a closer relationship with God,
  • Learn how to return to the sense of child-like wonder,
  • Include free time to notice, experience and appreciate delightful blessings around me,
  • Spend relaxing time with family and friends,
  • Always learn something new growing in wisdom,
  • Ask God to empower you to be graceful; to give grace to others,
  • Use grace to develop harmonious relationships with God and others,
  • Learn how to laugh and to learn from those funny situations,
  • Make time to celebrate and have fun,
  • Work on creative projects, esp. to help make the world a better place, and
  • Be receptive to God’s messages in various forms such as extrasensory perception and dreams.


These key ideas may be woven into a prayer, but they are the life-long recommendations to live a joy-filled life.

Only one more week remains in Advent. Begin, now, to develop or to maintain the lifestyle that fills your life with joy and provides hope to others by the love that you share. With hope, love and joy filling each person’s life, peace will ensue. God has given us the greatest gift of all—his son. All who believe and live according to the Golden Rule will receive the everlasting gift at judgment as well as a joy-filled life even now.

Closing prayer

Dear Giving God,

Guide us as we continue through Advent

Filled with hope, love and joy.


Share with us the creative ways to share

Your story filled with grace and love.


Give us the strength to live our lives

Christ-centered in the midst of chaos.


May we serve as real-life angels

Giving to those who are lost and unhappy.


Let us thank you for joy-filled lives

By living our faith out loud. –Amen

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Angels: Messengers of Hope

given on November 29, 2015, the first Sunday of Advent

Scripture foundation from The Message

  • Joel 2:12-14
  • Jeremiah 2:19 and 33:14-16
  • Luke 1:8-19, 26-38


Reflection in three parts

Welcome to Advent! The Christian season filled with anticipation, with hope, with love, with joy, and with peace. Around us the stores are filled with sparkling decorations and all the dazzling displays of products designed to capture our eyes. Even the weather decided to let us know a new season has arrived—at least here in the Midwest.

We are bombarded with messages that something is going to happen, and yet how often are we unprepared or even worse how often do we miss the message? Our lives become so filled with the business of living, that we miss the latest news reports or overlook a story in the paper. We need a personal messenger.

In the scripture from Joel, the message is to warn the people of Judah, which was the southern kingdom of Israel, of how bad things were. The people were prosperous and complacent; they took God for granted; they were self-centered and were turning to idolatry and sin. God was unhappy and would bring his judgment if the people did not repent and return to living by God’s law:

“Come back to me and really mean it!
Come fasting and weeping, sorry for your sins!”

13-14 Change your life, not just your clothes.
Come back to God, your God.

Here it is the first Sunday of Advent. Can we say that we are faithful? Joel’s words are part of the message God sends to us through the scripture.


Part 2:

Angels are messengers. Some may argue whether angels are real figures or simply a literary device to get the reader’s attention. Yet, angels are included in scripture and theologians have analyzed and studied the holy words. The conclusion is that angels are indeed part of God’s heavenly forces.

One reference, What Does the Bible Say About . . ., provides interesting facts and outlines the various references to angels in the Old and the New Testament:

  • . . . angels are among the ministering spirits that serve God and the people. . .
  • The Bible presents angels as real beings and provides limited information about them, but for the most part it leaves them veiled in mystery. Apparently God wants us to know reality extends beyond our normal perceptions, yet He does not want us to know too much about it.
  • Angels are members of an order of heavenly beings who are superior to humans in power and intelligence. However, unlike God they are not all-powerful or all-knowing.
  • . . . [angels] announce good news . . .
  • . . . warn of coming dangers. . .
  • . . . Angels played a particularly active role in the events surround Jesus’ birth, resurrection, and ascension.

The Advent lectionary includes one of the traditional prophecies of the coming Messiah.   Found in Jeremiah is a reference to the angels serving as a messenger. God’s angel reminds the people that they can not run away from God, that you cannot ignore God:

Your evil ways will get you a sound thrashing, that’s what you’ll get.
You’ll pay dearly for your disloyal ways.
Take a long, hard look at what you’ve done and its bitter results.
Was it worth it to have walked out on your God?”
God’s Decree, Master God-of-the-Angel-Armies. . . .

The angels did whatever they could to warn us that our behaviors needed to change and to remain focused on God’s law. Are we following God’s law to love one another as we want to be loved or are we trying to run away, to be self-centered and complacent?

Part 3:

Angels visited two individuals in the Christmas story; to begin the Christmas story. First the angel came to tell Zachariah that his wife Elizabeth would give birth to John the Baptist, as we now refer to him. This baby was the cousin of Jesus but his role was to prepare the way for Jesus, the Messiah.

The second angel in the Christmas story visited Mary, the mother of Baby Jesus. He announced that she would be the mother of Jesus, God’s son. Her disbelief was quickly quieted as her faith assured her that the angel was from God. Her faith gave her the confidence to serve as the mother of Jesus.

The scriptures today all prepare us, thousands of years later, too. We are to review our own lives, our own actions, and our own hearts. Are we remaining faithful to God? Are we following the crowd, so to speak, and becoming more self-centered and complacent? Are we listening to our own angels who share God’s messages to us?

Advent is a season filled with hope. The human mind needs hope. In the commentary for this week’s lectionary, the need for hope is as important as the basic human needs of food, clothing, and shelter. Hope is so important even in the worst situations. As Christians, we have a responsibility to keep hope alive.

As we move closer to Christmas, let’s use the Advent season to consider whether we are providing hope to others. What do we say that encourages one and another? What actions share hope with others? As a church, do we deliver messages of hope or are we trapped by despair?

Closing prayer

Dear loving Father,


The season filled with anticipation is here.

We see angels in the decorations,

We hear angels in the holiday music.

We fight thousands of mixed emotions.


We feel despair as we find ourselves

Separated from You by the business of living.

We know we have traveled away from you

Rather than traveling with you.


Fill us with hope, with anticipation,

As we move through this Advent season.

Send your angels to guide us home to You.

Energize us with love so we can provide hope to others.


Thank you for patience for our wandering souls.

Thank you for angels found in scripture.

Thank you, too, for angels we meet daily.

Thank you for hope shared by angels of old and of new.

May we serve as messengers sharing hope with others.–Amen

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The News of Christmas: Spread the Word

to be given on December 28, 2014


How many of you started telling what you got for Christmas? Or, did you ask your kids, grand or great-grandkids what Santa brought them for Christmas? That is part of the fun, isn’t it? We all want to know what our family and friends got for Christmas. Just hearing the kids share what they got is great fun. Of course, having them race around showing you what they found under the tree is a delight, too.

The excitement of receiving a gift is sometimes so overwhelming we can only run from one to the other to show them what you found in the pretty packages. The gift of Christmas that God sent us did not appear under the tree all wrapped up in pretty paper and ribbon; God’s gift arrived in Bethlehem in a manger filled with straw for the livestock.

The baby’s parents were exhausted after traveling almost 100 miles by foot and on a burro’s back. The census could not have come at a worse time with a baby due any time. Consider even the region’s environment: no paved roads, no rest stops, no McD’s to get a quick meal. This was a journey made to be compliant with the Roman leader’s decree.

When young parents have their first child, today’s setting is very different. The birthing rooms are clean, sterile, and decorated like a luxury hotel’s room. Everything is designed for the mother’s comfort but also for the daddy. In fact, the team of doctors and nurses even get into the act helping share the news of the baby’s birth.

The baby’s birth is news that is shared almost instantly today. We take pictures, videos, and have birth announcements ready to go. The word of the newest baby travels quickly from family and friends to others through Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, not to mention an email or a message.

Do we need to consider how to spread the news of Jesus’ birth? Can you even imagine what it would be like today if Jesus were born this week? The announcement would have been on the internet within minutes. Hundreds of photos would be snapped and sent to Facebook so others could know the baby was born and even see what he looked like.

The angel announced Jesus’ birth. Remember the words from Luke 2:9-12:

Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, 10 but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. 11 The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! 12 And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”

One can only imagine the shock the shepherds must have experienced, especially when the “host” of angels appeared right there in the open fields near Bethlehem. Not quite the same as the alarm on a phone or a tablet is it?

The shepherds may have been the first to learn of Jesus’ birth outside the stall, but they had to check it out. Just like grandparents waiting to learn the newest grandchild had arrived, they hurried off to see the new child whom they believed was to be the next great leader of the Jewish tribes.

What would you do? Would you be one of the faithful who believed that Jesus was the Messiah and you simply accepted the news and went on with the day? Or would you have needed to see the baby with your own two eyes? Granted, we can only imagine what the experience was like for the shepherds; but in our world, wouldn’t the cynical side take control and we would wait.

The news of Christmas cannot be shared fast enough or far enough. The birth of Jesus was thousands of years in the planning, and his birth should be shared. Are we doing that?

Just what would the world have thought if the angels had not appeared or the Three Kings did not ride in from the east? Would the news of Christmas have been shared with others? How many people would we rush to tell that we had seen Jesus with our own eyes?

Christmas Day may be over, but what have we done to share the news? Have we used all the tools at our fingertips to share the news? Have we waited too long to spread the word? The shepherds did:

After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child.

The news spread quickly. The shepherds returned to their station on the hillside and they talked.

Can you say that you have shared the news of Christmas with all your family and friends? Be honest. I know that I have not done that very well. I know the story and figure all my family and friends do too. They know my church routines. They know how I live my life. Surely it is not necessary to share the story with them. But it is.

The fact that for nearly 30 years, the news of Christmas faded away as the faithful waited for the baby to grow up and to begin the work of saving the Jewish faithful. The news the shepherds shared with such enthusiasm and eagerness became old news, forgotten since no major changes occurred in their lives as a result of the baby’s birth.

What happened at Jesus’ birth is the same that happens today. We learn exciting news, but as the days, weeks, and years pass, we do not keep the excitement alive. Sharing the news of Christmas is so important if God is a daily part of our lives. The newness may wear off quickly as we move into January, but the value of the news never lessens.

Share the news of Christmas with those around you. Talk about it at dinner. Invite others to discover the value of faith in their lives. Keep the news of Christmas moving through all your messages on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. When you are with friends, share how God is alive in your life. Share a smile and a word of gratitude with the clerks in the stores. Read and discuss the Word as preserved in our Bibles.

The news of Christmas is well over 2,000 years old, but we do celebrate it each year. The concern is that the news is heard and then people open the gift in their own lives. Each new visitor who decides to return Sunday after Sunday finds that the news of Christmas is alive in our congregation. [add for Chilhowee: Every time we open the door of the church and invite the kiddos in for a special party, the news of Christmas is shared. When the fair-goers walk in for a traditional lunch with a piece of pie, we are sharing the news of Christmas.]

As the year closes, a new year begins. Share the news of Christmas each and every time you can. When we open the door of the church, make sure others know it is open. The calendar we take down is replaced with a calendar fill of opportunities. Look ahead and plan.

What are new ways to share the good news? What can you do? Use each opportunity you can to be God’s hands and arms so others may learn of his unconditional love. Open your arms and love for there is no better way to share the news of Christmas.

Please join with me in prayer:

Dear loving and giving Father,

Thank you for sending your son as our first Christmas gift.

As gifts were opened amid squeals of delight, we celebrated.

Thank you for our family and friends

Who joined us in the celebration of Christmas.

Help us to demonstrate and to share the news of Christ

With family and friends or strangers and foes

From sunrise to sunset and even into the night.

Let us keep the news of Christmas the best news of the year.




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