Home Altar: Week of December 19, 2021

by Alicia Vela Anderson

Fourth Sunday of Advent

SUNDAY, December 19

Micah 4:1-4

A Kingdom Vision of Peace

One of the first times I baptized a baby, he was very agitated. I took him, kicking and crying, into my arms and as the water began to wash over the top of his head, he went completely still. He relaxed into my arms in a moment I’ll never forget. The mystery of the Holy Spirit was present and tangible in that moment as I saw the look of peace on his tiny face.

That feels like the sense of peace Micah describes in this passage. A peace that is so secure and so strong that the nations will trade weapons of war for tools of farming; a peace that includes sitting in the shade of your tree and never fearing the other again. This prophecy is handed down generation to generation through the people of God; it gives them hope for the coming King of Israel, who will set all things right again.

Comfort us, O Sovereign God, lift up your countenance on us, that we may experience your peace. AMEN.

MONDAY, December 20

Psalm 80:1-7

God Stands Firm

I grew up fearless and always wanting to try new things. As a child, I remember vacations to the shore and running into the surf alongside my dad. It terrified my mom, who knew the power of an undertow against a seven-year-old’s body. It thrilled me to experience the ups and downs of the waves, but every once in a while, I would get caught off guard. The waves would hit when I didn’t expect it, and saltwater would fill my eyes and mouth. I’d cry out and my dad would scoop me up into his arms; he was never too far away and he had the ability to stand firm against the waves. As God’s people, we often find ourselves bobbing in the waves of life, and when an unexpected force knocks us off-kilter, we can cry out and be scooped into the arms of God. God is standing by, firm against the waves, ready to answer our call.

Rescue us, O God Almighty, that we may feel your strong arms lift us from the waves. AMEN.

Tuesday, December 21

Micah 5:2-5a

An Undeserved Deliverance

Throughout Advent, we focus on the hope, peace, love, and joy that Jesus’s birth brings to the hurting and marginalized people of God. Throughout everything they experienced, they held onto this prophesied promise; a promise that reads like a compliment sandwich—a just judgment enclosed in unwarranted deliverance. God has called them onto the carpet for the ways they have abandoned their call to community, to the marginalized, and to live in covenant relationship. But because of the goodness of God, they are offered a vision of secure peace. Jesus’s greatness will reach to the ends of the earth; it’s not just for the Israelite nation, but for all people. And they will have peace because of it, despite the ways that they have not earned it. Jesus stands in the strength of the Lord, shepherding his people, embodying their peace and security.

Deliver us, O Merciful Savior, that we may see where we fall short and where you grant us your goodness. AMEN.

Wednesday, December 22

Luke 1:39-45

The Power in Community

There is strength in walking alongside others on similar journeys. Even though I do not have kids, I can recognize the power of the bond between two mothers. Whether through birth, surrogacy, adoption, or fostering, mothers share a sacred kinship. This scene between Elizabeth and Mary is brief but important as both are experiencing their first pregnancies under miraculous circumstances. Elizabeth is pregnant in her old age and her husband is unable to speak due to his skepticism before God. Mary is a young unmarried woman carrying the child of God. They find solace and encouragement with one another. Scripture says that Mary stayed with Elizabeth for three months, and I wish we could hear more stories from that time—the beauty and power of two women walking this unforeseen journey together, similar but different. We need more of that in our lives, community with people who are experiencing similar joys and hardships despite how different our lives may be.

Reveal to us, O God Almighty, those who are on the journey with us, that we may find comfort together. AMEN.

Thursday, December 23

Luke 1:47-55

The Kingdom is Not What You Expect

The words of Mary’s song stand boldly against the patriarchal society she is living in. Her song of praise to God shows us the value God places on women in the story of Jesus’s birth. God allows Mary to sing the message of the gospel for the first time in the book of Luke. Perhaps she was fearful, uneasy at her great task to bring the Savior of her people to earth through childbirth. Perhaps she felt small and insignificant in comparison to the life she was carrying. And yet, hers is the voice that speaks the prophecy of God’s kingdom. Mary embodies the upside-down kingdom Jesus ushers in. God grants her this honorable position when her community likely questioned her dignity as a humble, unwed mother. As always, God is bringing the kingdom to fruition through the most unlikely sources. Where are we missing glimpses of the kingdom because our eyes are focused on those we deem most powerful?

Open our eyes, O mighty God, that we may see your image in each person we encounter. AMEN.

Friday, December 24

Isaiah 52:7-10

Shine Your Light

In my various roles in various churches, I’ve performed the act of walking the aisles to light candles during the candlelight service on Christmas Eve. From the back of the sanctuary, I watch the light slowly magnify across the room and hear voices raised in praise of the simple beauty of Jesus’s birth. The moment is breathtaking. There’s a reason Jesus calls us to be the light of the world. There’s an undeniable attractiveness of the gospel, an invitation to draw near and bask in the good news of peace, salvation, and redemption. It spreads, person to person, until it encompasses all, and like candlelight in a dark sanctuary, it has the power to banish all darkness. We, as followers of Christ, are messengers of the gospel, invited to spread this peace we’ve received from God. God invites us to share this good news through our actions, through our love, and through our humble service.

Shine through us, O gracious God, that we may spread your peace through our world. AMEN.

Saturday, December 25 (Christmas)

Luke 2:1-14

Better than Santa

Every Christmas when my nieces wake up to presents and stockings full of candy, they are astonished. They come running at me with shrieks of “Santa came!” and every year I laugh, because what were they expecting? They set out cookies and milk for Santa, and they were fully expecting these presents. Yet every time they seem surprised. Even better than Santa, of course, is the birth of Jesus. Every detail of Jesus’s birth was foretold and planned by God. The prophecies have been declared and passed through the generations: a King will be born in the line of David, in the city of Bethlehem, to a virgin, and he will bring redemption to the people of God. The story has been told, the people of God have been preparing and expecting it, and yet the shepherds’ declarations of praise feel similar to my nieces’ exclamations on Christmas morning. It’s as if, even though they were expecting this joyful birth, they weren’t positive they were going to witness it. They get to bear witness to this beautiful miracle, and they want to shout it from the mountains.

Remind us, O loving God, of your invitation to us to bear witness to all you are doing in our world, that we may declare the goodness of your Son. AMEN.

About the Author: Alicia Vela Anderson

St. Paul, Minnesota

I am an ordained Covenant pastor, and I have primarily served youth and their families for the past 15 years. I currently serve as a Sacred Studies teacher at Minnehaha Academy in Minneapolis, teaching seventh graders about the stories of Jesus found in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. I have a deep passion for walking alongside students as they learn about and experience God at work in their lives and in the world around them. I am a Colorado native who married a Minnesotan and now finds herself planted in the Twin Cities. Some of my favorite things include drinking coffee, exploring new cities, and reading about experiences that are unlike my own. I am a lifelong learner who loves encouraging others to keep learning new things and seeking new perspectives.

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