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Saint Mark Daily Advent Devotional – December 17, 2014

by Cathy Alvarez

Scripture: Matthew 24: 45 – 51

As a child, I witnessed the faithfulness of my grandpa and my dad.  While my parents saved and waited for their home, we lived with my grandparents, and my grandpa taught us how to celebrate the Sabbath.  Before church, he would gather us in the parlor by the piano and, with voice, praise, and prayer, we would thank God for His blessings.

Later, at our own home, each Sunday I noticed how my dad would open his wallet, take out the money he had set aside for church, put the money in his offering envelope, and tuck the envelope in his breast pocket. Then we walked to church to celebrate the Sabbath.

My parents had high school educations and modest incomes to pay for the raising of three children, a mortgage, food, utilities, clothes, church, and few dollars for savings.  There were no vacations, cars, televisions or big parties.  But I remember when my dear friend became pregnant and needed financial help, dad dug deep and provided food and rent money for her.

Because of my dad’s faithfulness and witness, God continued to support and sustain our family.  All of our needs were consistently met, and my parents showed compassion to our friends and neighbors.

Today’s scripture recalls the teaching of Jesus and the preparation for the unknown time of God’s return. It compares the actions of the faithful and unfaithful servants.  “Who then is the faithful and wise servant whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time?” The parable reminds us to be faithful to God and our responsibilities to others.

I am forever grateful to my grandpa and dad for their faithfulness to God and our family.

Prayer: “Great is thy faithfulness, morning by morning new mercies I see.” Amen.

Saint Mark United Methodist Church


Saint Mark Daily Advent Devotional – December 16, 2014

by Sally Foster

Scripture: Matthew 24:32-44

This scripture in the gospel of Matthew tells about Jesus’ return, and tells us to remain watchful. “No one knows about that day or hour… therefore keep watch… But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.”

This is one of the most powerful passages in the Bible because it talks about preparedness. I have always tried to be prepared in my life for just about anything. In my retirement, I have more time to think about “being” prepared as opposed to “doing” prepared as I did in my work life. The Lord tells us we must be prepared for his return. I often wonder how prepared I am – is my spiritual suitcase ready to go at a moment’s notice like when I traveled for work. Have I been storing up treasures on Earth that will be useless in Heaven? Have I been working toward the advancement of His kingdom here on Earth or working for my own advancement? If He were to grade me on how well I have done in furthering his kingdom, would I get a passing grade? What am I doing to “Be” prepared? These are important questions that all of us need to answer for we will not know the day or hour of his return. Even if we did, would we sit back, be lazy, continue sinning and then ask for forgiveness at the very end? How prepared are you for the Lord’s return?

Prayer: Heavenly Father, help us to be prepared for your return. Give us the knowledge to know how to prepare and the wisdom to do the work here on Earth that is important to the advancement of your kingdom so we are ready for that day and hour when we will see you again. Amen.

Saint Mark United Methodist Church


Saint Mark Daily Advent Devotional – December 15, 2014

by Christia Holloway

Scripture: Revelation 3:7-13

I’m not a huge fan of Revelation (although with all of its vivid and dramatic images, no wonder it has provided endless inspiration for countless writers and artists). Of all the images we tend to associate with John’s often bizarre visions, the one in chapter 3, verse 8 is a new and very powerful one for me:  “… See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut.”

This year in particular, many of us have no doubt felt disenfranchised or excluded for some reason – perhaps from the (United Methodist) Church itself, with its continuing struggles and sometimes discouraging judicial deliberations over interpreting scripture, as well as its stances on who is welcome in the church and who is not. The more I read this passage, the more encouraging and empowering it became. Yes, the author is addressing “the angel of the church in Philadelphia” but I believe the message can be applied to broader context. Imagine a door that always remains open (no knocking necessary), that no one (even ourselves) can ever shut. Sadly, so many have made the decision to shut the door to the idea of reconciling their faith with their identities. How encouraging to be reminded that, regardless of what others may tell us, or what we might even tell ourselves, the door will always be open and God’s love will always be available for us.

“I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown” (verse 11). “No one can take your faith (or your validity) from you. Hang on because help is on the way” is surely the message of Advent if there ever was one.

Prayer: Dear God, thank you for open doors and your unrelenting love. Amen.

Saint Mark United Methodist Church


Saint Mark Daily Advent Devotional – December 14, 2014

by Carolyn Bibb

Scripture: John 1: 6-8

Watching.  Waiting.  Preparing.  These words are frequently used during Advent, but what meaning do they have in your life?  I am a “J” (Judger) on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator which, if you are familiar with it, tells you that I prefer closure and decision making to open-endedness.   I prefer planning and structure to a “go with the flow” or “wait and see” approach.  So watching and waiting?  I’m not really very good at either of those and the “J” in me thinks thorough planning can render those skills unnecessary.  Now, preparing? I’m down with that one!

The more “play it by ear” type on the MBTI is a “P” (Perceiver) and wouldn’t you know that I share my home and life with one!   Susan handles the unexpected better than I do and often resists the finality of a firm decision.  Watching and waiting come more easily to her.  Preparing? Not so much. We face the regular challenge of stepping outside our respective comfort zones to utilize flexibility (my challenge) and decisiveness (her challenge) and keep our lives balanced and happy, minimizing the frustration that might occur when our styles clash too much.

Watching.  Waiting.  Preparing.  They may not come easily to many of us.  God invites us to take a fresh look at those words this Advent season.  Watch.  You might find Christ in some surprising places.  Wait.  God is in control of the timing.  Prepare.  When Christ comes, let your heart be ready to receive Him!

Prayer:  As I watch for Christ, help me be a witness to the light and to see His light illuminate new paths. Amen.

Saint Mark United Methodist Church


Saint Mark Daily Advent Devotional – December 13, 2014

by Mark LaRocca-Pitts

Scripture: Psalm 90:12

When we think about this season of Advent, we tend to think about birth – the birth of Jesus. Yet today’s readings are all about the end of days, the great apocalypse at the end of time, that day when everything hits the fan. It seems to suggest that with every new beginning there is also an end. And as we know, birth and death are inexorably intertwined. Living as if we will never die is a fairy tale: pleasant, but false. Psalm 90 reminds us that our lives are like a dream that vanishes with the morning light; like grass that flourishes in the morning, but in the evening withers away. We may live three score and ten, or four score, but their span is spent in toil and trouble and will soon disappear.

But must this be the case? We are told to “number our days that we might get a heart of wisdom.” Death by and in itself means nothing. But the knowledge of death can bear fruit in our life; through this knowledge we can gain a heart of wisdom. The whole point of apocalyptic literature is to help motivate us in the here and now to live lives of value, of meaning, and of worth. The whole point about knowing in our bones that our days are numbered and that we will, in fact, die is so that we might grab hold of life in the here and now and make the most of it.

There is a story arc to our life: a beginning and an end with a story in between. What is your story? Is it one of meaning, purpose, and worth? Or is it one that fritters away this gift called life with trite and meaningless activities?

Prayer: Lord, teach us to number our days, so that when death finds us, it might find us alive! Amen.

Saint Mark United Methodist Church


Saint Mark Daily Advent Devotional – December 12, 2014

by Carl Leary

Scripture: Matthew 23:39

As we await the celebration of the birth of the Christ child, we must remember that he has told us he will come again. With joy we look upon the babe in the manger and we know that he came to earth so that he could die for us and our sins, but on that glorious day he will come again to claim us as his children.

In Matthew, chapter 23, Jesus is talking to his disciples and the crowds. He is calling out the scribes and Pharisees for being outwardly beautiful, but inwardly full of uncleanness. We come to the babe, assured that our hearts are turned to the love of God as well as to our fellow man. It does not matter what we look like on the outside as long as we are pure on the inside.

Prayer:  Oh God, the author of all sustenance, who has nourished us from our youth up; fill, we beseech thee, our hearts with joyfulness, that in thy bountiful providence we may serve thee with every good work, through Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom with thee and the Holy Ghost be all glory and power, and honor and worship, both now and forevermore. Amen.  (from The Observance of the Love Feast)

Saint Mark United Methodist Church


Saint Mark Daily Advent Devotional – December 11, 2014

by Alice Richardson

Scripture: Psalm 18:1-20

The theme for this year’s devotional guide is “My Soul Magnifies the Lord.”  Is there another day of the year where our emotions run so high?  I don’t tear up often but during the Christmas season it seems that I am a blubbering fool.  The lights, music, traditions and family gatherings get me every single time.

I have these emotions because I grew up in a home where it was simply the best day of the year. I confess to still believing in the spirit of Santa.  As children, it’s all about the presents and what we receive.  As adults, we become the “givers” and the word “presents” changes to “presence” – His presence within us.  It is really not hard to magnify the Lord during Advent.

If you are a Christian, how can it be?  The entire season is raw emotion, even with everything going at warp speed.  The tricky part is showing that light to others, not because it makes us feel good and righteous but because we are so very blessed that it simply shines through.  There are many among us who are not so blessed, who do not share our emotion, or their emotion is one of darkness and dread of this day.  They need our light, our smile, our presents – and our presence.

Prayer: Gracious Heavenly Father, we give you thanks for the greatest gift of all, your Son, Jesus Christ.  As we celebrate this Advent season, help us look beyond ourselves and share the spirit that radiates within us this time of year. Amen

Saint Mark United Methodist Church


Saint Mark Daily Advent Devotional – December 10, 2014

by Matthew Malok & Bill Whittaker

Scripture: Revelation 1:17b, 2:7

This year we are commemorating the anniversaries of several of our family and friends’ transitions from this life to the next.  Occasionally we send up helium balloons in the backyard to mark the occasion.  Matthew’s mom died 20 years ago and Bill’s 27 years ago.  Many other family members including both of our fathers, Bill’s two sisters, and very close family and friends have gone on to glory.  We have precious memories of their lives with us and are grateful that their souls now rest in the arms of our merciful Creator.

Life on earth is real, exciting and demanding, but let us all remember that we are really only on a short journey here.  Our eventual and eternal home will be heaven.  At this time of year, when we are anticipating the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ, let us remember that what awaits us in the next world is worth the wait.

Prayer:  Thank you Lord for being with us at all times in our lives here and in the hereafter.  Amen.

Saint Mark United Methodist Church


Saint Mark Daily Advent Devotional – December 9, 2014

by Kale Wright

Scripture: Psalm 33:1-3

Years ago, an experience related to me by a minister friend made a huge impact on my life. He’d been part of a public debate regarding spirituality and sexuality. The minister with whom he was debating challenged his claim to salvation. In a condescending tone, the man, who didn’t think gays and lesbians could be Christians, said, “What do you think God will say to you when you stand before Him on Judgment Day?” After pausing to ponder the question, my new friend replied with contentment, “I think God will ask me, ‘Did you sing the song I gave you?’ As long as I can answer ‘Yes,’ I know I’ll be OK.”

Over the years, I’ve shared this story with many people who felt that they were outside the reach of God’s love simply because of how that same God made them. When I ask if they can sing the song God gave them, sometimes I see peace come across their face as they realize the author of their song is none other than God the Creator. Other times I see the look of a child, who knows the question she’s been asked is one she should know, but she can’t quite remember where she learned it. Those people are still being called to co-create “a new song,” to sing in praise to God. When the Psalmist encourages you to “invent your own new song,” it’s not a solo adventure you’re being called into. It’s an exhortation to be one with the God who gives us each a unique song, one which you alone can sing with “a trumpet fanfare” to thank God for God’s wondrous love and care. Before God asks you if you sang the song you were given, let me ask you: Have you “invented” your song in collaboration with the greatest musician you’ll ever meet? When you find your song, sing it proudly. If you do, I promise that your life will never be the same.

Prayer: God, help us to sing our song, with you and for you. Amen.

Saint Mark United Methodist Church


Saint Mark Daily Advent Devotional – December 8, 2014

by Daniel Byars

Scripture: Matthew 22:23-33

In Matthew 22:23-33, the Sadducees approach Jesus with a question on marriage in the resurrection. Jesus uses this opportunity to inform them that “At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven” (v. 30).

Jesus declares that there will be no place for the commencement of marriages in the new order, which is not the same as saying that present marital relationships will be abolished. What are the implications of Jesus’ words in verse 30 for persons presently married? And what about people who have been married more than once, such as the woman in the Sadducees’ story?

I believe we’ll love those we have made prior commitments to with a greater love than ever before.  Covenants we’ve made on earth will also be bound in heaven.   The covenants made on earth will be strengthened by agape love, free of jealousy, pride and selfishness.   The woman, who in this life has been married to seven husbands, will be free to love all seven of them without exhibiting the slightest favoritism, exploitation or manipulation.   The question “Whose wife will she be?” will have become irrelevant.

“Supreme Court effectively legalizes same-sex marriage in 11 more states” are the headlines I read as I prepare to finalize my devotional for the Advent devotion guide.   Just as Jesus addressed the Sadducees in his day, the same wisdom holds true to those who question same-sex marriages today. In the resurrection, this too will become irrelevant.  We shall love with the greatest love of all.

Prayer: God, help us love full as we wait patiently for your kingdom. Amen

Saint Mark United Methodist Church