Week 1

The wolf shall dwell with the lamb

By Brad Hewitt

The wolf shall dwell with the lamb,
    and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat,
and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together;
    and a little child shall lead them. —
Isaiah 11:6, ESV

Among the many prophesies we find regarding the advent of the Messiah, this one from Isaiah is one of my favorites because it fills me with wonder and hope. It is an amazing image of the world that God intended, and it inspired American artist Edward Hicks to create his "Peaceable Kingdom" paintings. We celebrate the vision of peace on earth that came to the shepherds when Jesus was born (Luke 2:14), and it is something we long for with the advent of Christ’s return.

For those of us at Habitat for Humanity, when we hear the words “dwell” or “dwelling,” it, of course, brings to mind our mission and our daily work. Creating partnerships to provide decent, affordable dwellings for all is the part we play in building the peaceful kingdom here and now. We bring together people from various backgrounds who are about as different as the wolf and the lamb. Together we experience the joy and wonder of working side by side with people who, without Habitat, might well never meet. We build community among unlikely people who are often at odds. We see the fruits of our labor in foundations being dug out, in homes taking shape and in keys being handed over — with smiles and hugs all around. We get to see glimpses of peace on earth, even if just for a moment.

In Isaiah 11:10, NLT, we read: “In that day the heir to David’s throne will be a banner of salvation to all the world. The nations will rally to him, and the land where he lives will be a glorious place.”

In this time of Advent, let us, with renewed energy, bring the hope of justice to all through our ministry of decent and affordable housing. Let’s build faith in the future by creating glorious places called home.

Prayer

God of wonder and awe, we praise You for the glimpses of the justice, peace and restoration You are bringing about. It is hard for us to believe that a wolf and a lamb would dwell together in peace — just like it is hard to see how justice could reign and that exploitation would cease. Help us to have the faith of a little child that everything is possible.

In this time of preparation to celebrate the birth of Your Son and the peace on earth that was announced to the shepherds, help us to see even more clearly how our work at Habitat can bring restoration and hope. Give us a spirit of wisdom and understanding so that all we do brings glory to you. Amen.

Questions

  • Read Isaiah 11:1-10. Then pause for a moment to think about a build you have been on that included the greatest diversity of people. What was it like? How did it change you? Did you experience a brief “peace on earth” moment?
  • Is your Habitat organization committed to bringing together diverse people and groups?
  • Isaiah leaves us with a powerful image of wonder that a wolf would lie with a lamb. What gives you a sense of awe and wonder? 
  • As we look forward to the advent of the “peaceful kingdom,” how can Habitat continue to create space for “peace on earth” moments at builds and in other places?

Brad Hewitt is former vice chair of Habitat for Humanity International’s board of directors and is the CEO of Thrivent Financial. 

Week 2

I want to be all in

By Scot Sellers

When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard.” — Luke 1:12-13, NIV

When was the last time you were awestruck? I’m talking absolutely overwhelmed. Our society tends to try to explain everything by natural, scientific means, which can remove the wonder and amazement from our lives. That isn’t God’s way; He wants us to be awed by the majesty of His presence in our lives each and every day. 

Through the beauty of the sunset and flowers in our paths, the love we share with friends and family and the unexpected moments of joy and sorrow, God desires to meet us every day in incredible ways. 

As we read Luke’s description of the encounter with the angel Gabriel, we see the way God touched Zechariah’s life to prepare him for the birth of his son, John. Zechariah is gripped with fear but is told that his son will be filled with the Holy Spirit before he is born. Despite the appearance of a magnificent angel of God, Zechariah still doesn’t believe. How often is this our story? God knows us better than we know ourselves and calls us to follow Him, yet we are reluctant to do so!

In Luke 1:18, Zechariah asked Gabriel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.” But God had a plan. He was sending John to prepare the way for Jesus to come to live with us on earth to provide a miraculous means for all people to be saved and reconciled to their Creator. So, despite Zechariah’s reservations, the Lord brought him along to be part of the story. 

God calls Habitat to be part of the story as well. We take on God-sized tasks and obediently respond to challenges that seem beyond our capabilities. If we are going to significantly impact housing deficits in communities around the world, we must be all in. We can be confident that our prayers are heard as we remember the words of Zechariah not to be afraid.

In this Advent season, I am asking the Lord to prepare my heart to follow Him, despite my fears and misgivings. I want to be all in, full of wonder at His provision in my life and eager to be used for whatever God is calling me to do. I don’t want to settle for only those things that seem safe and reasonably achievable. Instead, I want to be willing to follow God’s direction to pursue those tasks that can be accomplished only with His power, in spite of my inadequacies. 

Prayer

Dear Lord, please help me to trust You to work through me. Do not let me be intimidated when I consider my own limitations. You have an amazing plan to work in the lives of those around me, and I desperately want to be an important part of Your work. Please fill me with Your Holy Spirit and Your strength and power to follow You, even when I’m nervous about doing so. Thank you for always loving me and taking care of me. Amen.

Questions

  • Where is God calling you to follow Him that makes you uncomfortable or a bit reticent? Are you willing to rely totally on Him and step out in faith, even though the task seems beyond your capabilities?
  • The Lord wants us to have at least one God-sized task we are focused on to deepen our relationship with Him. What tasks are you and your Habitat organization pursuing that can be accomplished only by God’s intervention? 
  • When in the coming week will you set aside time to prepare your heart to celebrate the birth of Jesus? Be sure to ask what additional God-sized tasks the Lord wants you to pursue with Him. 

Scot Sellers is a member of Habitat for Humanity International’s board of directors.

Week 3

No room for them in the inn

By Alberto Harth

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that the whole world should be enrolled. This was the first enrollment, when Quirinius was governor of Syria. So all went to be enrolled, each to his own town. And Joseph too went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth to Judea, to the city of David that is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. While they were there, the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.  Luke 2:1-7, NABRE

Joseph and Mary traveled about 80 miles (130 kilometers) from Nazareth to Bethlehem. Along the way, accommodations were primitive. When they arrived, the town was crowded and there was no room available for the weary couple. They stayed at an inn in an area where the animals fed. The humble origins of the birth of Jesus changed the world. It has given us the most precious gift: love made flesh in the birth of the Son of God.

“God could have come to the world in any way that God desired,” writes James Martin in Jesus: A Pilgrimage. “We may be so conditioned to the story of the birth of Jesus in humble circumstances that we forget that this was a choice. … God wanted to meet us where we are. So God came as a human being.

“We are called to nourish our faith … in the same way Mary and Joseph were called to nourish the Infant Christ.”

We show others the unconditional love of a merciful God when we meet them where they are. Let us pray that our Habitat vision — a world where everyone has a decent place to live — continues to inspire us to extend our work around the world. May God use our efforts to transform lives and do great things in ordinary circumstances.

Prayer

Beloved Father, “You have come to us as a newborn child. We see your face in those who hunger and thirst, in the frail, the lonely, the sick, those who live in fear, those who suffer, those who mourn, those behind prison walls and those without adequate clothing and shelter on these cold nights. As we watch and wait for you, we are filled with hope. Amen.”

“Advent Prayer,” American Bible Society

Questions

  • This Advent season, how do we pray for hope in today’s world?
  • What might it have been like to give birth and to be born in an area surrounded by animals and strangers?
  • What is Luke’s message today for 68 million displaced people worldwide? What can Habitat do to respond?
  • How do we prepare for this message of the coming week? “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.” Luke 2:10, NIV

Alberto Harth is a member of Habitat for Humanity International’s board of directors.

Week 4

Startling, to say the least

by Mary Lynn Staley

As we enter this final week of Advent, let’s look at Luke 2:8-20, NIV, which focuses on the angels' visit to the shepherds in the fields and the announcement of the birth of Christ.

This was not your ordinary night under the stars. The shepherds did not hear a whisper in front of a cave to warn them. The appearance of the angel came — bang! — out of nowhere. We don’t read about either a fight or flight response, but we do know the shepherds were afraid. Yet, they remained to hear the amazing news.

Immediately the angel calmed them with the words, “Fear not!” So they listened. Then came God’s exclamation point: “Suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God.” — Luke 2:13, NRSV.

Wow!

Every now and then, God gets our attention in wonderful and amazing ways. Often that happens in our own surroundings if we allow Him to move through our roadblocks of busyness, fear and the like. His message, a new understanding that is given to us, is reliably followed by some type of internal fireworks — maybe just a tingling of our skin or a deep sense of peace, filling the “sky” of our personal world.

Then we, like the shepherds, are called to investigate more closely (Luke 2:15) and ponder the implications. We cannot hold inside what God has revealed to us, and we, too, feel compelled to share the good news (Luke 2:20).

Members of the Habitat for Humanity family who have received in their hearts the good news of Jesus Christ feel compelled to respond by caring for others. We reach out to help people build a better future, even if that provokes in us a fear of getting outside our comfort zones. We demonstrate the love of Jesus even if that means pushing boundaries and calling upon a multitude of heavenly host to move heaven and earth to make that loving difference. Like the shepherds, we then return to our God, glorifying Him and praising Him for all He has revealed to us.

Prayer

Dear and gracious God, might you always enable us to present Your message as if we were the shepherds in the fields. Let us not fear the tasks ahead or even Your power to work through us as you find us. Illuminate Your mission for us and bring us, and all we serve, to the “manger” of understanding and love. Amen.

Questions

  • When has God revealed something amazing to you or your Habitat organization when you were going about an ordinary day? How did you respond?
  • Have you ever been frightened by God’s presence? Have you ever received a message or calling from God that made you afraid? If so, describe the experience and tell what you did.
  • Have you ever encountered what you believed to be an angel speaking or acting in any circumstance? If so, tell what you experienced.
  • What good news will you share — and with whom — this Advent season?

Mary Lynn Staley is vice chair of Habitat for Humanity International’s board of directors.