Advent Devotional

Advent is a time of waiting for the Second Coming of Christ.   As we reflect on these scriptures and the writings of the congregation may we draw closer to God and to each other.  God’s grace in Jesus Christ is sufficient for our daily living.  May these reflections give us a renewed spiritual freedom and add to our spiritual life in this season while we wait. 

Thank you to everyone for taking time to write your reflections on these passages, and to Mark Zaccaria, for editing this devotional.  May God grant us a blessed Advent and Christmas Season.

Pastor Lori

Below you will find links to each day's Bible reading and accompanying devotional.  You can also download a PDF copy of this year's devotional by scrolling to the bottom of this page.


December 1st, 2013

Matthew 24:29-44


At first glance during the reading of this scripture, I stopped and said to myself, “What is the connection between this scripture reading in Matthew and Advent”?
 
After all, Jesus is talking about the “end days” when all of heaven and earth will be changed forever. People will be going about their usual business, either not knowing what is about to take place or not caring. Yet, how did they miss those signs and not prepare for this life changing event? How is this possibly connected to the season of Advent?

Jesus’ coming into our world and walking in our shoes was a life changing event. This event had been for many years prophesied about, talked about, and read about. Yet, when it finally happens, almost no one is aware of it. God has come near and instead of coming with trumpets blaring and fireworks going off, He announces His arrival in an ordinary way to be witnessed by ordinary people. Only a handful of His children pay attention.

That is one of the key points of today’s scripture reading. Just like in Bethlehem, Christ will appear again to all of us without warning. And just like in Bethlehem, we will be going about our usual business. We need to pay attention. We need to be ready every single day for Jesus’ arrival, be it the time of Advent or “end days”.

So be ready; prepare your hearts; make way for our King. The message is as meaningful today as it was in a small village two thousand years ago. Our Savior is coming!


God’s peace,
Richard Dunne

***

December 2nd, 2013

Matthew 25: 1-13

The Parable of the Ten Girls

Advent is defined by the freedictionary.com as “The coming or arrival, especially of something extremely important…” The Advent Season of the Christian church is the anticipation of the coming or the arrival of the birth of Christ – the Messiah. However, this passage of scripture does not refer to anticipation of the birth of Christ but to the anticipation of the return of the Son of Man after His death. Throughout his ministry Jesus tried to prepare His followers for His death, resurrection and eventual return.

Despite Jesus’ own words and teachings however, throughout the ages Christians have continually tried to forecast the day and hour of the “Second Coming of Christ” or the “end times”. In this passage Jesus is telling Christians that we must be prepared at all times for his return “because you do not know the day or the hour”. Just as the five girls who took extra oil to meet the bride groom were prepared we must follow the teachings of Christ throughout our lives so we will be prepared to sit at the right hand of the Father when the day and the hour arrive.

In the parable the bride groom is late and the ten girls fall asleep waiting. The oil in the lamps burns out and when the bride groom finally does arrive only the five girls with extra oil are able to greet him. As Christians we must not allow ourselves to let our oil burn out. We have clear instructions from Jesus on how to be ready when the day and hour arrive. Just as the door to the wedding feast was closed to the five girls who were unprepared with extra lamp oil, so too will grace and salvation be closed to us if we fail to follow the direction Christ has set out for us. Accepting Christ as our Savior is also accepting those teachings and life lessons that fill the New Testament. Preparing for the “day and the hour” is living a life of service, grace and love every day and every hour.

Sherrie Blott

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December 3rd, 2013

Matthew 25:31-46

Jesus speaks about what is to become of everyone at the time of judgment. I had always read this passage filled with hope and glad that I would be one of the righteous and thereby take my place at the right hand of the Father. I thought this because I was, after all, a “good” person. I went to church, said my prayers and read the bible.

But nowhere in these verses does Jesus talk about these things. Rather, he says the righteous are those who do the Lord’s work- caring for others, by giving them that which they need now- food, drink, clothing or just someone to spend time with them. Providing these things to those in need is the same as doing these for the Lord.

If I am to be one of those on the right, I need to recognize the needs of those around me and respond to those needs in a loving manner. I still need to prepare myself through worship, prayers and scripture. But only when I put my faith into practice, can I truly start on the path to become one of the righteous.

Prayer: Thank you, Lord, for the many blessings in my life. Help me to see the needs of others and to respond as you would have me- in love. In this way, I may serve you. Amen.

Mark DerManouelian

***

December 4th 2013

Psalm 24

“Who may ascend the hill of the Lord? Who may stand in his Holy place?

This is a psalm of praise and discernment by David. The earth and everything in it belong to the Lord. David then asks the questions stated above. He goes on to answer those questions stating that “He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift his soul up to an idol or swear by what is false”. I think that many of us really don’t think much about idols today, even though they are all around us. The Lord would really like some of our time, some prayer time and some quiet and reflective time for us to get in touch with him, his love for us and the beauty of his creation. “Lift up your heads, O you gates; be lifted up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in.” He is telling us that we need to actively seek the King of glory, the Lord Almighty.

Lord may we continually seek to be in your presence, to share your love and receive your grace. Amen.

Yours in Christ – Jay Sperry

***

December 5th, 2013

Psalm 29

Peace, is a word which comes into our faith vernacular this time of year. Its meaning for our lives, many times, eludes us within turmoil and violence of our world. However, if we stop and consider, and are truly honest, peace is the greatest gift we could wish for, or receive.

This Psalm is interesting in that peace for all, is David’s only wish. However, this profound petition is contained in one line. All the rest of the text is about God’s power and glory, even the power of destruction. David acknowledges all that God is, and can make happen. David believes. In that belief of Creation and Destruction, is the belief that God can bring Peace to our lives and our world. God is that powerful.

For most of my life, I spoke and acted from a place of turmoil. Of course, I didn’t understand this, because I knew no other way. I made poor choices. I was not who, or where, I wanted to be. My life was turmoil. One day I turned on the TV and a woman was talking. Her face, her tone of voice, her demeanor astounded me. I didn’t know a human being could possess such a calm, peaceful countenance. I began to cry out to God, “I want what she has. I want to know that Peace.” That moment began a journey which has since governed my life. While I am still a work in progress, I truly know peace. My heart knows a still calmness. This peace knows that if I allow God to be God in my life, everything will turn out all right. Maybe not what I think is right or have in mind, but better in the end. This peace allows me to see others (most of the time) as fellow beings walking around in turmoil, unaware of the Peace that is absent from their lives. I thank God that I saw this woman and saw in her the possibilities. I thank God for transforming my life from turmoil to Peace.

In this season may we all believe, that God is powerful enough to bring Peace to our lives and our world.

Cathy Sprigg

***

December 6, 2013

Psalm 81

A Song of Worship in the Temple

People vv. 1-5a Prophet vv. 5b-16

My experience with Hebrew worship has been limited to one Bar Mitzvah and a few community services of which I understood very little, humming along a bit to the music. I've known that the cantor seems to have a very important role in worship. I am indebted to Alan T Dale for acquainting me with Psalms in Worship, as the hymn book of the Israelites. Words of our experience set to music are easily remembered and carried in our hearts, as we know in our worship.

The opening verses of this Psalm are sung by the people in joyful praise to God in a festive worship service. The following verses are sung by the Temple Prophet, bringing GOD's Word to them. The message is very clear- GOD was faithful but the Israelites did not listen. So GOD let them go their own stubborn, evil ways. The invitation is there; listen to GOD, follow the Way and be saved from enemies and know the delight of GOD.

Prayer: Most Holy God, it is a joy to recount your faithfulness to your people. Help us to call to you to for guidance in the way of loving obedience and to honor you in our daily living. In Christ's name, Amen.

Marilyn Moffett

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December 7th, 2013

Psalm 84: 1-12

1How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD of hosts! 2My soul longs, indeed it faints for the courts of the LORD; my heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God. 3Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, at your altars, O LORD of hosts, my King and my God.

4Happy are those who live in your house, ever singing your praise. 5Happy are those whose strength is in you, in whose heart are the highways to Zion. 6As they go through the valley of Baca they make it a place of springs; the early rain also covers it with pools.

7They go from strength to strength; the God of gods will be seen in Zion. 8O LORD God of hosts, hear my prayer; give ear, O God of Jacob! 9Behold our shield, O God; look on the face of your anointed. 10For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than live in the tents of wickedness.

11For the LORD God is a sun and shield; he bestows favor and honor. No good thing does the LORD withhold from those who walk uprightly. 12O LORD of hosts, happy is everyone who trusts in you.

Some thoughts: My soul longs for the courts of the Lord, as does David’s, when he describes what a great place is God’s domain. God supplies a haven and a rest for even the humblest of animals and birds: surely, he has the same feelings towards his devoted people. He makes the path, as well as the journey, as promising as one could ever imagine, and the destination is the warmth of his love and the protection from the ‘storms’ that are raging around us: and the only requirements are that we sing his praises, we honor his dominion, and we trust in his promise of salvation.

Lord, give me (us) the tenacity to honor both the good times and the troubled times. Our trials are often blessings in disguise. Give me (us) the strength to know those blessings, and to know that you are always with me (us) and that there truly is a place for all to be dwelling with you when you call us to your side. Amen!

Paul Mancini, Sr.

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December 8th, 2013

Psalm 93

"Mightier than the thunder of the great waters, mightier than the beakers of the sea--the Lord on high is mighty." Psalm 93:4

In the Old Testament, "the seas" is frequently used to represent the chaotic forces in the world that threaten order and security. God is more powerful than the forces of chaos. God has established the world; in his care, it is secure from chaotic forces.

When we are sad or frightened or feeling overwhelmed, Psalm 93 encourages us to remember that God is with us. God created our world and everything in it. God created us and will always be with us.

As Jesus told his disciples, "And surely I am with you always, even to the very end of the age." Matt 28:20b.

Paula Wilberger

***

December 9th, 2013

Isaiah 11: 1-16

A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;
From his roots a Branch will bear fruit.
The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him-
The Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
The Spirit of counsel and of power,
The Spirit of knowledge and
Of fear of the Lord
And he will delight in the fear of the Lord. (1-3;NIV)

In this beautiful prophecy, Isaiah gives us the promise of a new world born out of Jesse a “root” ancestor. This shoot refers to Jesus and how he will bring righteousness to the needy and justice to the poor. The passage goes on to describe a world where known predators live in harmony with each other in both the animal kingdom and the people kingdoms. None will harm each other because the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.(10)

The world described by Isaiah that will be brought about by the righteousness of Jesus is a most amazing virtuous and upstanding way of living. An informal definition of the word righteous means, excellent! Let us imagine with Isaiah this world of peace and harmony and justice for the poor. In this world the Lord reaches out for us and gathers all of his exiles. Now that is righteous!

During this advent season how can we contribute to this vision of an excellent world?

Dear Lord,
Let us keep your vision of how we can live together alive in our hearts.
Let us seek your counsel to live more wisely.
Let us carry out your justice by serving the poor.
Let us not cause harm to our neighbor or destruction to your earth.
Let us no longer live in exile from your ways.
Let us say yes to your reclaiming our lives.
We pray this in the name of your Branch, Jesus Christ.
Amen

Respectfully submitted by Paula J. Martasian

***

December 10th, 2013

Isaiah 35:1-10

This Chapter of Isaiah is believed to have been written while many of the people of Israel were held in captivity, in Babylon. The holy city of Jerusalem (Zion), as well as the Temple, was in ruins. It was also a time of strife between the ‘Nations’ of Babylon, Assyria, Egypt, and others. There was international intrigue and undoubtedly a general feeling of hopelessness shared by God’s people, especially those few remaining in Israel and Judah. Everyone was probably hoping for better times.

Into all this comes the prophet Isaiah who proclaims that God will establish his justice and destroy all evil. Chapter 35 portrays the days to come when life will be peaceful at last and everything will be made right. It’s a wonderful picture of deliverance in the future kingdom of Peace. The people will return to Zion with singing and joy, the eyes of the blind will be opened, the lame will walk, and the land will be watered.. Also, as the people travel – walking in God’s Way – they will be protected from harmful animals and wicked travelers, i.e. those not following the Way of God (Check your daily newspaper, it’s full of examples). God is preparing a way for his people to travel home.

As we enter Advent our times are somewhat like the days of Isaiah. We know about conflicts, international tension and intrigue, economic stress, and political dissension. We are looking for more peaceful times. It’s a good period to reflect on Isaiah 35 and remember that God is still preparing the way for his people (Us) to enter the “home” he plans for us, and He will walk with us. A comforting thought for stressful times and days.

Bob Mason

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December 11th, 2013

Isaiah 51: 1-23

Some scholars say that Christians tend to misinterpret the words of the prophets, especially those of Isaiah. They say we look at them only in terms of how they may or may not predict the coming of Jesus, and miss their original intent. But today’s reading is not so much a prophesy as it is an affirmation. Isaiah says that the Lord is a mighty God who cares about His people, offers them comfort, and ultimately provides salvation to those who believe. The righteousness of God cannot be opposed, and those who ignore the words of the Creator do so at their own peril. The Hebrew people, when they thought of a messiah, did not think in terms of the coming of the Son of God. But they shared with us a faith in an almighty Creator who loves us, and offers us gifts beyond our understanding. The roots of our faith run deep, and they run wide. As Christians, we need to remember that, while we have received a special message through Jesus, we also share basic beliefs with people of many faiths.

Yours in Christ, Al Brown

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December 12th, 2013

Isaiah 52:1-12

There are so many rich images in this passage from Isaiah that one scarcely knows where to begin. “Awake, awake, put on your strength.” “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger who announce peace, who brings good news, who announces salvation.” “Break forth into singing ... for the Lord has comforted his people.” “The Lord will go before you, and the God of Israel will be your rear guard.”

In these alone there is an invitation to be awake and ready; the invitation to celebrate the one who brings good news; the invitation to rejoice in the comforting presence of God; the assurance that God will lead us and protect us. These are powerful images that help up to prepare for Immanuel.

When we know that one is coming who will make our lives better, it is essential that we are ready. Prepare ye the way of the Lord! When we are reminded of the comforting Presence of God, we are called to break forth into singing. Rejoice in the Lord always! When we realize that God will walk with us in every circumstance of life, we are able to live in confident hope. He is a lamp unto our feet, and a light unto our path!

This is the promise for which Advent prepares us. God is bringing good news of great joy for all the people. In Immanuel God moves into the neighborhood and things will never be the same. So, get ready and put out the welcome mat. God is about to make all things new!

Prayer: O God of Good News, comfort and Immanuel, Help us to get ready for the coming of Jesus the Christ. Grant us the wisdom to walk faithfully, to live joyfully, and welcome all as we would welcome You; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Rev. F. Richard Garland

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December 13th, 2013

Isaiah 54:1-17

In this season of Joy we read today about a covenant made to us by God that should wildly increase the very Joy we were already celebrating.

The Prophet Isaiah is widely read as a Preview of Coming Attractions for the Gospels. The Book of Isaiah foreshadows the birth of Christ and the redemption of all sinners. In today’s passage we are given the word of none other than the Almighty that this will occur. All our desires are to be fulfilled. All our fears are to be put to rest. All our needs are to be provided for, by God.

It is our faith in the ability of the Lord to fulfill these promises that begins to make them come true in our spiritual life. See how closely this Psalm-like passage states the promise of redemption from sin and death that Christ will bring to his Ministry, as described in the Gospels.

What better gift could be bestowed upon eager children by a loving parent? Technology? Gold? Precious Stones? Don’t even…

The gift of the promise of eternity, as documented in this passage from Isaiah, should be the thing that makes our Joy complete this Advent Season. Read and Rejoice.

Mark Zaccaria

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December 14th, 2013

Isaiah 55:1-13

More than half of Israel's total land area is desert. The Israelites of Isaiah's time, who lived in a very arid region of the world, would have understood well the value of water, rain, wine, milk, seed, and bread. These were critical items. Without these basic necessities, people would soon die. Even today, we think nothing of buying a good bottle of water when we are thirsty, and in our own country in modern times there have been many legal battles over water rights due to its central importance in our lives.

In this passage, The Lord goes well beyond just offering water and our basic physical needs for free. The Lord is promising to send a Messiah (The Word) in the line of David -- the great earthly king (verse 4). So the Lord's incomparable Grace is offered not just physically, but also spiritually. The Lord does not stop there, and offers abundant Mercy to the wicked and unrighteous who forsake their ways. These promises are not only given for Israel, but for all nations who are drawn to "the Holy One of Israel." (verse 5) But the Lord's Ways are so different than our ways that few expected God to become incarnate in a little poor baby human (Emmanuel/Joshua/Jesus - The Word) and later become the savior of the whole world by conquering sin and death by dying on a Roman cross with a briar crown.

In this season of joy, and peace, and singing, and fir trees, let us remember with great thanksgiving God's infinite Grace and Mercy for giving us the best Christmas present ever, Jesus.

John 4:10 - Jesus replied, “If you only knew the gift God has for you and who you are speaking to, you would ask me, and I would give you living water.”

Merry Christmas,
Herb Payan

***

December 15th, 2013

Isaiah 60:1-22

Writing devotionals is often fun. You never know what the verse will be when it is handed to you, so you are forced to spend some time in quiet reflection - trying to discern just what it is you will share with the congregation. Other times, not so much. Isaiah is from the Old Testament. The language is rich and descriptive. You get the sense of the glorious rise of Zion and the "coming together" of the faithful, both long believing and newly converted. Unfortunately, even after several attempts it didn't really speak to me. I got the bits and pieces, but I was missing the "whole."

The good news (lower case) is that just as we can ask each other about passages we don't understand, scholars have written many books of bible commentary...and many are easily accessible on-line. John Gill is one such theologian and his work is readily available. As he writes, Isaiah 60 describes the "light and glory of the church, in the spiritual reign." People from all around the world are continually converted. The Kingdom of God is enriched and glorified in this process. Eventually enemies will be subjugated and peace will reign. In the final stages, Christ will personally rule the Church when "there will be a perfection of light and righteousness; and the number of God's elect will be complete, and they will all be together."

The "whole" that I was missing was that Isaiah was describing the coming together of the perfect Kingdom of God. What a glorious future to look forward to!

Jay Hickey

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December 16th, 2013

Isaiah 61: 1-11

Because the Spirit of the Lord is upon Isaiah, Isaiah voices his joy and his calling to go out into the world and do a myriad of good works in many arenas. Most of his calling appears to be based around spreading the word of God and extolling all what God will do for each of us should we understand the value of God’s gifts. Isaiah joyfully wants all he meets to realize what could be in store for each of them if they would but worship and rejoice in the Lord.

Isaiah’s faith and assurance that God will provide for the good to the righteous and continue to take care of him and his people is certainly an admirable quality. I wonder if we ever extol our joy in the faith we have in God to anywhere near this degree? Isaiah is thankful, he is willing to go out and bring others into his life, and he seems the eternal optimist here.

How many times do we lament, grouse, complain, verklempt…need I go on? We have so much in this country that is positive and we have so much in the way of riches in every way! And yet how many times do we offer thanks to God for our lives, our safety, our families, our very being?

It is interesting how pertinent Isaiah’s words and teaching are today considering that he set them down thousands of years ago! “Joy to the World” seems to have had its beginnings in the beginning!

Oh, and by the way, my beautiful April was born this day at a time when God knew I needed a special little girl to put my foolish complaints away and stop feeling sorry for myself. She really has been the blessing that Isaiah told would occur to God’s people!

Ruth Zaccaria

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December 17th, 2013

Isaiah 62:1-12

At first glance this passage seems like an unlikely selection for Advent devotions. Its focus is on the city Jerusalem, on the community and how it thinks of itself and how the people live together. Personal religion takes a back seat to concern for the community. Personal piety gives way to the faithfulness of the community. The salvation proclaimed here is a corporate affair. This passage is going to stretch and enlarge our vision of Advent.

It is helpful to note that the historical context of this passage is a time of national instability. The familiar alignment of the nations is coming “unstuck.” How Jerusalem sees itself in relation to the world around it is shifting. Having long been dominated by outsiders, Jerusalem is about to get a new identity: vindicated by God, a place of glory, no longer forsaken, the delight of the Lord, guarded over by God. “They shall be called, ‘The Holy People, The Redeemed of the Lord.’”

What then does this mean as we prepare for Immanuel? Simply this: we do not do it alone! We are in it together! Our personal salvation is not apart from the salvation of all. Read the Magnificat [Luke 1:46-55]. Read Jesus’ announcement at the beginning of his ministry [Luke 4:18-19]. Each is a witness that the birth of Immanuel means that the world will be changing, starting in our own home town.

We are being reminded that Advent is about seeing ourselves in a new light, about rolling up our sleeves to begin the work of justice and righteousness, about choosing to live as holy people and witnesses to peace.

Prayer: O God of Salvation and hope, help us to get ready for the coming of Jesus the Christ. Stretch and enlarge our vision that we may see Your will for a weary wounded world, and join ourselves together with You as sister and brother in common cause with your kingdom on earth as it is in heaven; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Rev. F. Richard Garland

***

December 18th, 2013

Malachi 3: 1-12

“See, I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the Lord Almighty. (3:1NIV)

“Return to me, and I will return to you,” says the Lord Almighty.(3:7 NIV)

“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.”(3:10 NIV)

These words are so reassuring. God is telling us that he will come to us. He asks us to return to him and he will return to us. It is our choice to be with God. If we make this choice, the very Being that we seek will be present to us. He asks us to give all to Him and then He will give all to us. When he sends down His blessings to us we cannot even imagine such abundance. We would have a delightful life. When we live by our ways and not God’s ways we have in essence left God. God is encouraging us to try something new, to try Him! He wants us to live in abundance with overflowing blessings. Can we imagine this life? God can!

Dear Lord,
We feel your purifying powers working in us.
We feel your refining us to do your work.
We hear your call for us to return to you.
Let us give all of our self to you, O Lord.
Let us accept the abundant life you envision for us.
Let us accept your blessings.
Let us be a blessing to you and your world.
Amen

Respectfully submitted by Paula J. Martasian

***

December 19th, 2013

Malachi 3:13-4:6

It is hard to walk with God every day. We fail, we sin, we turn away from God when our life gets too full of pain and who do we blame?

It is easy to strikeout at God when things go wrong. We even abuse His name when frustration and anger casts a dark cloud over us.

In these times of trouble, we must remember, that God chose us to be His own. He knows each of us in our best times and our worst. And He has promised us forgiveness and the joy of reconciliation through Jesus.

Every year during Advent we are blessed with the greatest love from heaven in the form of a tiny child.

We just have to accept it and then go into the world and share it.

I pray that God will bless us during this Advent Season.

Nina Dunne

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December 20th, 2010

John 20:24-29

Thomas was not in the room when Jesus first came to the disciples. They had to explain to Thomas that they had seen the risen Christ. Thomas did not believe it possible.
Couldn’t be. Jesus, alive again? Here, in the flesh?

Thomas had been a student of Jesus for three years. He saw the early miracles; he was there when the leaper’s lesions healed, when Peter’s mother-in-law was made healthy again, when Jesus called life out of the death and Lazarus walked out of the tomb. Somehow, these miracles were different from the one being described to him. He doubted, really doubted. Prove it he said. And Jesus, the resurrected Christ, entered the locked room and filled Thomas’s life again.

Has the resurrected Christ entered your life this advent season?
Do you see Him in the eyes of the homeless, the depressed, and the wounded?
Do you see Him in the smiling face of your grandchild, at the family dinner table, or in the quiet of a long lonely night?

Jesus walked into that locked room two thousand years ago and blessed Thomas for believing; “My Lord and my God!”

During this Advent Season, the infant Jesus will enter our lives again. We will be blessed as we invite Him into our Christmas celebrations. But, it is the blessings of the resurrected Christ that will transform us into His likeness to do His work here on this side of the locked door.

Will you recognize Him as your Lord and God and invite Him to live in you, forever?
Come, Lord Jesus Christ, Come. Amen

Nina Dunne

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December 21st, 2013

Luke 1:1-25

This scripture is the promise of the birth of John the Baptist who would prepare the people for the birth of Jesus. John’s birth was promised to a couple past child bearing age, God did provide them with the promised son and they named him John, as Gabriel had proclaimed it should be to Zechariah in the sanctuary. Zechariah and Elizabeth were inwardly and outwardly obedient to God and God worked in his own way in their impossible situation. God fulfilled the word of the prophets and blessed this faithful, childless couple with their desired child.

As has been said before, God moves in mysterious ways. We must be open to what God can do in impossible situations and then we must wait for God to work in his way and in his time.

Ruth Sperry

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December 22nd, 2013

Luke 1: 26-56

When we venerate the saints, or regard them with reverence, sometimes we forget that one of the things that makes them special is the fact that they started out as ordinary people, just like us. Mary was just a young girl, betrothed but not yet married. And she was visited by an angel of the Lord, who told her that she had a special role to play in bringing God’s message to the earth. At that point, Mary was doubtful. She didn’t understand why or how she was chosen. But despite her doubts and fears, she came to terms with what the angel had to say, and accepted her destiny. This is what truly makes a saint a saint. Not that she was born to greatness. Instead, she showed that she was special by having the courage to accept the duty that was thrust upon her. And here the angel made a wise and practical decision. He sent Mary to visit her cousin, Elisabeth, who was also pregnant in unusual circumstances, being thought too old to conceive. And it was with the comfort and support of her friend and relative that Mary fully accepted the charge the angel gave her. The presence of Elisabeth in this story is an important message for us. Whatever burdens or challenges life may bring us, we do not have to face them alone. Even saints need the support of their friends and loved ones.

Yours in Christ, Al Brown

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December 23rd, 2013

Luke 1:57-80

Zechariah’s Song

As we wait in the early morning darkness, even before the sun rises, it casts a soft glow over the earth in expectation of the coming day. Zechariah’s song is not simply the birth announcement of his son John [the Baptist], but a song of hope in the fulfillment of God’s promises in Jesus Christ. This song is also prophecy.

God’s promise is to be with us, to live among us, as we live in God’s grace. Jesus knew our challenges, he knew our pain. He also knew our joy! May ‘our feet be guided into the way of peace’ [v.79], and may our hearts be at peace as we wait for the coming of Jesus.

Prayer: God, fill us with your Spirit;
Holy Spirit, be our guide;
Christ, be our bright Morning Star. Amen.

Peace, Pastor Lori

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December 24th, 2013

Luke 2:1-20

This year as I read this, so very familiar, passage carefully, prayerfully, I was drawn to the shepherd’s response, after they saw the baby Jesus. It is not really surprising that if someone was visited by a ‘host of angels’, that they would investigate what they were told. Would we not be filled with a curiosity that would compel us to find out more? What is interesting to me, though, is that once they found this couple, with their new born baby, in this place of dirt, and poverty, and lowliness, they were so moved by the experience that they went off and amazed others. While the angels were astounding, it was the experience with Jesus, which lead them to go and tell others of this very odd happening.

Christmas has taken over our world, especially in this country. It lasts longer and longer. It is the source of friction between those who claim Christ and those who have no faith practice. Christmas has taken over the world...but has Christ? We, of course, know the answer. I am curious at to why. Is it possible that in all that we say and do this time of year, that very few people truly experience the baby Jesus...including us? What was it that the shepherds saw, heard, and felt, when they entered that stable? What was so powerful in this tiny baby, they felt compelled to go out and tell a story to others that in today’s world may mean a mental health check? What excited and propelled these men?

The world sorely needs what we experience in the Jesus who fed the masses, who saw suffering and had compassion to heal, who told us how to live in holiness through the Beatitudes. This Jesus is that remedy for what ails the world. Perhaps, if we pray only one prayer this season, it is “God help me to see, feel, and know what the shepherds experienced in that stable. And give me the enthusiasm and courage to tell others about what I know in my heart.” Have we experienced the transformational Jesus?

Cathy Sprigg

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December 25th, 2013

John 1: 1-18

I love the lights of the Christmas season. Everything sparkles! Even the sky seems to be brighter with the stars shining in the cool, crisp nights. Yes, the lights of Christmas are delightful to see, but how much greater the Light of Christ! Christ is the light of the world, and has been from the very beginning. How could it be any other way having been in the beginning with God?!

This passage that speaks to the divinity of Christ, distinct from God the Creator. Christ , the Son, in life and light! Theology aside, on this Christmas Day we are invited to embrace Christ and live in God’s truth and grace. There are no better gifts. God’s gift of love is given freely in Christ the babe of Bethlehem!

Prayer: Holy God, on this Christmas Day, we thank you for Jesus Christ.
Through Him you entered into the world to be our savior.
May we accept your gift of grace in Christ Jesus,
and live in his love with one another.
We thank you for home and family, for those we hold dear.
In Jesus’, the Babe of Bethlehem, name we pray, Amen.

Pastor Lori

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December 26th, 2013

John 1:19-34

Of all the Gospels, the Book of John is the most spiritually oriented. The other three Gospels, Matthew, Mark and Luke, are called the synoptic Gospels, because they tell the same story, in a similar manner--the story of Jesus the man who walked among us. The writer of John, however, is clearly focused on Jesus as God, and when the book does describe events in the life of Jesus, it does so from that perspective. Here we see a different view of the meeting of Jesus and John the Baptist. In the other Gospels, the focus is on John's baptism of Jesus by water, and the revelation that triggered. This Gospel does not clearly state whether or not John actually baptized Jesus physically, but instead frames the encounter as another opportunity to affirm the fact that Jesus is the fulfillment of prophesy, and the true Son of God, the one who will baptize all who believe with the Holy Ghost. We are reminded that while Jesus was a man, he is also more than a man, one who for a brief moment walked among us in a physical body, but who is always with us in spirit.

Yours in Christ, Al Brown

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December 27th, 2013

Luke 2:21-52

All of Jesus’ childhood years are compressed into these 32 verses, and focus on two events – his presentation at the temple as a baby, and his staying behind at the temple at age 12. In many ways, Jesus’ life was not much different than children today.

At baptisms or christenings (or in Jesus’ case, circumcision), parents are full of hope – hope for the child’s future, of all the wondrous possibilities that lay ahead. Simeon and Anna are the first to recognize the promised messiah in the form of Jesus, and rejoice in his presence. But Simeon also knows that this child’s future will not be easy, and that glory will come at a steep price.

When Jesus stays behind at the temple years later, Mary and Joseph react as any parent would at discovering that a child is missing. Their panic and fear then gives way to anger when he is found. While Jesus knows on the one hand that he “must be about his (heavenly) father’s business,” he realizes on the other that his earthly parents deserve the same respect and love, and that the time for his active ministry has not yet come.

The remainder of his childhood years past unremarkably, and Mary and Joseph must have been proud as he grew into a young man, working beside Joseph as a capable carpenter. While surely the words of Simeon and Jesus himself gave Mary reason to pause, she never loses hope or faith in her son.

In this Christmas season, we are reminded of parents’ unconditional love for their children, and the gift of hope that children represent.

Pete Pellegrino & His Students in the Sr. High Sunday School Class

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December 28th, 2013

Philippians 1:1-30

3 I thank my God every time I remember you.

9 I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding. 10 For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ’s return. 11 May you always be filled with the fruit of your salvation—the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus Christ—for this will bring much glory and praise to God.”

Have we prepared ourselves for Christ’s arrival? Have we done all that is possible to prepare our hearts? Have the tree, lights, gifts and planning fancy gatherings taken priority over centering ourselves in his midst? It is so easy to let the lines blur between our spiritual preparations and those things that make it a memorable Currier & Ives Christmas. Yes, one might argue, people are the focus for these preparations and people should be put before material things during this season, right? However, Christ is the one that can direct our actions and as Paul says, be the impetus for caring for those around us with love. Paul states our overflowing love for one another will keep us growing in knowledge and understanding. This knowledge and understanding will lead to pure and blameless lives as God has directed us to live. This will bring much glory and praise to God. So, in a nutshell, focusing our lives on Christ alone will lead to loving and caring for those around us with Him in our hearts. The perfect Christmas memories may or may not be created this year, but our hearts will be filled with His love. That is perfect. That is His plan.

Prayer: Lord, thank you for the gift of our Savior and this example of unearned love and grace. Help us make our priorities mimic Your priorities for us. Help us love each other with our beings through our hearts, not just through our actions. Let our actions this Christmas Season only be a representation of our love as You have exemplified through your Son, Jesus Christ.

Lisa Dallas

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December 29th, 2013

Philippians 2:1-30

While scholars may argue about whether or not the disciple Paul wrote every epistle that is attributed to his name, there is no such argument about this document, a letter that many scholars believe pre-dates the writing of the Gospels. Thus, this letter stands as one of the earliest artifacts of the Christian faith, and the beliefs and precepts of the early Church. Its writer, Paul, is a fascinating person. As a persecutor of the early Christian faith, he was dogged and persistent, and absolutely sure of his cause--one might even say stubborn and inflexible. His conversion to Christianity, while it changed the direction of his life, left his personality intact. Thus, when Paul tells us about the faith, he does not discuss the matter, or give opposing viewpoints--he gives us the facts, pure and simple. Whatever one might say about Paul, it was this stubborn attitude that kept him on the move, spreading the word and building the faith, regardless of obstacles, and regardless of the consequences to himself. The reading for today is an example of Paul's forthrightness. It contains a summary of what appears in the Gospels--a pithy account of the life of Jesus, and what it meant on a spiritual level. And it goes on to state clearly what a good Christian life involves--humility, service and sacrifice. Like the man who wrote it, the message is direct and to the point. Jesus came to save us, and our obligation is to carry His message, and shape our lives to serve Him.

Yours in Christ, Al Brown

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December 30th, 2013

Philippians 3:1-21

Paul seems to be giving us guidance on how to become citizens worthy of walking the road to Heaven. He infers that who we are and who we are related to does not entitle us to a free ticket through the gates. Instead he tells us here to behave as better Christians. As evangelist and author, Leonard Ravenhill, has said, "We have many organizers, but few agonizers; many players and payers, but few pray-ers; many singers, few clingers; lots of pastors, few wrestlers; many fears, few tears; much fashion, little passion; many interferers, few intercessors; many writers, but few fighters. Failing here, we fail everywhere.

“The secret of prayer is praying in secret. A worldly Christian will stop worldliness. Let us build a Church, hot tears will give it life. That is the difference between the modern church and the early church. In the matter of effective praying, never have so many left so much to so few. Brothers and Sisters let us Pray.”

I pray we all find the ability to Act justly, Love mercy, and Walk humbly with God.

Deb Snow

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December 31st, 2013

Philippians 4: 1-23

We come to the end of another year with the promise of a new one before us. Still in the Christmas Season, Paul, in this passage, calls us to “Rejoice in the Lord always.” [v.4] and “to put on the mind of Christ.” “…whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” [v.8] He remembers those he is thankful for. He praises their gifts. He praises their faithfulness. In between he also says, “Do not worry bout anything.”

These are good words on which to base our new year’s resolutions. Let these set the standard of how you choose to live in 2014. As we close this year may we remember Paul’s writings, assured that as we live in love with God and one another, we receive God’s peace and our names are written in the book of life.

Prayer: Gracious God, as we turn the pages of the calendar, turn our hearts and minds aright that we may live in the riches of your grace. May our thoughts and our acts bring glory to your name, Amen.

Pastor Lori

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January 1st, 2014

Psalm 8

When I read Psalm 8, it reminds me of the majesty of the Earth and all the creatures God created. Especially in our beautiful state, did you ever look out at the ocean and marvel in its beauty and vastness? If you dive down to the bottom, there is peace like nowhere else. In the silence, the water slowly moves and the sea grass waves just slightly while the tiny creates search for food and hide from the larger fish at the same time. Look up. The sun, moon, stars, clouds, birds. The leaves changing colors. God made man "a little lower than the angels." It's our job to be the Earth's caretaker. Take time each day to stop and marvel in the majesty of God's Earth.

Marc Lamson

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January 2nd, 2014

Ecclesiastes 3:1-13

In verse 1, it is written, "There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under Heaven". Thus begins one of the most recognizable verses in the Bible. These are words for every person, in every place, in every circumstance. God has appointed the times and seasons; the events of our lives, the happy and the sad, the easy and the difficult. This thought can be troublesome for some, but it should bring us hope, because we know that God is in control.

We live in a world of change, and evidence of change is all round us. Some fear change. But change helps us to adapt to new situations and grow inside. As Christians, we go through some of the greatest changes. First we are dead, then made alive in Him; we discover our sinful nature and God continues to forgive and change our hearts. Change stretches us. It challenges us by making us grow through life's trials and tribulations. However, God does not change. This means that we can always count on Him to be there for us and do the right thing. And He doesn't change His mind about us. He loves us and always forgives us. And that is a very comforting thought in a world of change. Let us rejoice and be glad in it!!

God's never changing love and peace to all.

Steve Brooks, 2004

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January 3rd, 2014

Revelation 21:1-6

The words of most English translations of this scripture indicate that ‘God’s Dwelling Place’ is coming down to be among men and women. That is, men and women will be admitted to God’s Dwelling Place.

If we assume that God’s address is Heaven and that, as the passage also says, ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ it sure sounds like the Hereafter. This is a reiteration of the promise made by Jesus of a Life Everlasting. It is reinforcement of the prize that awaits the faithful.

Let’s not quibble about whether Heaven is up, down, or sideways from our current coordinates. Instead let’s look at this scripture from The Revelation in the opposite way it’s generally translated: It foretells of the Faithful on the move, not Jerusalem the Bride. It offers a glimpse of you and me going to dwell with the Almighty forever. It’s not coming down so much as we are going up.

Ponder today on the strength it will require for you to stay on the path to this promised reward. Pray for the focus it will take for you to play the long game when day-to-day irritations and frustrations threaten to distract you from your vision of what might be. Seek the help of God, Almighty, and you will succeed. Then we can look forward to seeing each other again in Jerusalem.

Mark Zaccaria

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January 4th, 2014

Psalm 73: 1-3, 21-28

The dark days of winter are a good time for introspection, an examination of our lives, and where we want to go in the future. The author of this Psalm may have also been sitting around in the midst of winter, thinking about life and its meaning. The author describes being envious of the rich and self absorbed--those who focus on their own comfort and needs. But the author has regrets about this, and understands that what is truly important is God, the God who has watched over the author, and who is a guide to the right path. While there are still fears and doubts, the author knows the right path, trusts in the Lord, and is willing to follow that path and proclaim the glory of God.

Yours in Christ, Al Brown

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January 5th, 2014

Ephesians 3:1-12

With the Holiday season upon us, and the rush of all that we need to do to be ready for the holidays, reading this verse makes me stop and reflect about what the message of this holiday is. The world has become so politically correct that it is no longer acceptable to wish people a Merry Christmas for fear of offending someone. Should we not be more worried about offending God by not proclaiming his gift to the world?

So many people today have forgotten what Christmas is about and the wonderful gift that God has given us in his son. Paul says in Ephesian 3:7, that “God treated me with kindness. His power worked in me and it became my job to spread the good news.” How wonderful to be chosen by God to spread the message of his love! We are the Pauls of today and it is our privilege to be chosen by the Lord to share in his good news and his love. What better time to do this than during the Christmas season? So it is will great joy and love that I wish all that I see a very Merry Christmas and may God bless you all.

Diana Dwane

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January 6th, 2014

Matthew 2: 1-12

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem, the three wise men from the east followed the star to see the “King of the Jews” but they encountered King Herod who tried to trick them into letting him know where the child was. The continued on their way and found Mary and the baby and delivered their gifts of gold, incense and myrrh. They realized that Herod was not a truthful man and went home a different route.

Oh to have been the wise men, to have been able to welcome the baby Jesus. It must have been amazing, to be able to be a part of that blessed time, to be able to follow a star and find him at the end.

May all your journeys in life lead you to such a fulfilling final destination. But be aware of the pitfalls along the way. Stay true to your beliefs, and the Lord will always be with you.

Elaine Roffo
Ċ
North Kingstown United Methodist Church,
Nov 24, 2013, 12:48 PM