Home Altar: Week of December 5, 2021

by Jeff Palmberg

Second Sunday of Advent

SUNDAY, December 5

Malachi 3:1-4

The Two-Hour Warning

Our kids live six hours away from us in Portland, Oregon. We get together five or six times a year, and a couple of those times they travel to our home. We, obviously, need to make preparations for their stay with us: prepare the guest room, convert Tami’s crafting room into a second guest room, plan meals, and do a general cleaning to make our home a welcoming place. So we appreciate when they call or text to let us know when they’ve reached Wenatchee—that gives us the two-hour warning.

The Israelites were longing for the arrival of the promised Messiah. But they had their own preparations to make in order to be ready to welcome him. God promised a messenger would warn them to get ready.

As you prepare for the arrival of Jesus, what preparations do you need to make in your heart?

Lord, help me to prepare my heart for your arrival. AMEN.

MONDAY, December 6

Jeremiah 33:14-16

Snow White?

Winter in north central Washington means snow—and lots of it. The snow falls with regularity between November and March. And since our population is also small, it generally doesn’t turn into dirty piles alongside the road as I experienced when I lived in Chicago. Does that mean the snow isn’t dirty? No, it just looks better at first glance.

Our best efforts to look good are only superficial and rarely fool anyone. The good news of God’s plan is that he does for us what we could never do on our own. In exchange for our sinfulness, we’re given the righteousness of Christ! That was the amazing promise of the Messiah—and the amazing gift we celebrate as God’s adopted children through Jesus.

Are you relying on your own efforts to look good and earn God’s favor? Remember, “The LORD is our righteousness” (v. 16, NRSV).

Father, let me experience your righteousness fully transforming my life. AMEN.

Tuesday, December 7

Luke 1:68-75

Rescue 911

After over nine months of supernaturally imposed silence, Zechariah’s first words were to praise God. He recognized that God was about to fulfill his covenant promise made to Abraham by sending a Savior. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, Zechariah prophesied that we have been rescued from the hands of our enemies (v. 74).

When I think about being rescued from my enemies, I usually focus on myself. How will I experience freedom to pursue my own desires? What kind of gloating will I be able to enjoy as I look down on those defeated foes? But the purpose of our rescue is so that we can serve God.

Our salvation through Jesus is a marvelous gift. But he saved us so that we can serve him for as long as we live. How are you living with an attitude of service to God? What might that look like in your life?

Lord, let me serve you every day with joy. AMEN.

Wednesday, December 8

Luke 1:76-79

Never Insignificant

In yesterday’s reading Zechariah recalls God’s faithfulness to his people, beginning with his covenant with Abraham which was about to be fulfilled through the arrival of the Messiah. Now Zechariah turns to his baby boy, John, and celebrates the role he will play in God’s salvation plan.

Do you feel like God is using you for his purposes? Or do you feel insignificant and impotent when it comes to the work of God’s kingdom? God is less concerned with your abilities than he is with your availability. A single candle can transform a pitch-black room. And the light you carry is the light of Christ within you!

Take a moment to consider how God may want to use you this week to “give light to those who sit in darkness” (v. 79, ESV).

Lord, guide me to those people in my life who need Your light and help me to share it with love and grace. AMEN.

Thursday, December 9

Luke 3:1-6

Road Work

When the president plans a visit, there are plenty of preparations that must be made. The Secret Service secures the location and the people receiving the visit will most likely clean, spruce up, and do everything they can to make the place look nice. Shouldn’t the arrival of the Messiah require at least as much work?

But the prophecy of Isaiah seems to focus less on human work than on what the Messiah will accomplish. His arrival will lead to valleys being filled in and mountains brought low. He will straighten the crooked and smooth the rough spots. The Messiah will bring the healing and salvation we need.

So, what is our job? John the Baptizer said it: Repent and turn to God. When we present our lives and will to Jesus, he will lead us into the kind of life we were created to experience—an abundant life (John 10:10).

Father, forgive me for my self-centered ways, and help me to welcome you with joyful obedience. AMEN.

Friday, December 10

Philippians 1:3-7

Renovation Work

My wife and I noticed that something seemed wrong with our bathroom floor. Some church friends came over and discovered that a pipe under the sink had been leaking for years. The result was rotten boards and the need to tear up the floor and rebuild that section before putting it all back together. While it took a number of days to complete the work, we were confident that they wouldn’t leave us with a big hole in our floor.

Paul had the same confidence in God’s renovation work in the believers in Philippi. The process would take time, but it would eventually lead to perfection when they were in Jesus’s presence. God is busy doing renovations in your life too. Are you patiently engaging in the work with him?

Father, thank you for not leaving me in my broken state. Do your good work in my life. AMEN.

Saturday, December 11

Philippians 1:8-11

Actively Waiting

As we anticipate our yearly celebration of Jesus’s first coming, we also anticipate that he will come again. But our waiting for him is not supposed to be like biding our time in a waiting room, reading the old magazines. Paul reminds us that we are called to live out our faith by overflowing with love and living a life that pleases God until the day Christ returns.

Paul prays that we may be filled with the fruit of our salvation—”righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ” (v. 11). How wonderful to think that Jesus is actively reproducing his own character qualities in our lives, such as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). And we demonstrate these traits in our interactions with others as a witness to him.

Lord, continue your work in me and let me be your active representative today.

About the Author: Jeff Palmberg

Twisp, Washington

Both my father (Bud) and great-grandfather (Carl Oscar) were Covenant pastors, so it was probably inevitable that I would end up one as well. For 25 years, I served in youth ministries in Covenant churches in Connecticut, Michigan, and Washington before becoming pastor of the Community Covenant Church in the tiny mountain town of Twisp, Washington, in 2013. My wife, Tami, and I have two grown children who live in the Portland, Oregon, area (Joey, an ESL teacher, and Ellie who is studying nursing and is married to Erik Morales). Tami and I enjoy sharing life and ministry in this beautiful location and with these wonderful people. When I’m not busy with ministry, I enjoy drawing caricatures and going for walks with our dog, Zoot.

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1 Comment

  1. I appreciated these meaningful devotionals… and the stimulating challenges
    at the end of each.

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