Advent 2022 begins on Nov. 27 and ends on Dec. 24.

During this season of Advent, join us for weekly devotions as we enter into a time of expectation and anticipation in preparation for Christmas.

Following Jesus

By Federico Gomez

“Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” At once they left their nets and followed him.

— Matthew 4:19-20, NIV

It could have been a day like any other in the life of Simon and Andrew. They threw their nets again and again into the Sea of Galilee and toiled in their work to bring sustenance to their homes. Perhaps they had woken up exhausted from the previous day’s chores and were facing the usual tasks of the new day again. Focused on the urgent, as often happens to us, they spent the hours surviving in routine.

But that day was not just any day on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. That day Jesus changed their lives forever. That day He looked them in the eye and invited them to follow Him. I can assure you that their hearts burst with joy, and they were filled with passion because they immediately stopped what they were doing and followed Him without hesitation.

Today, unlike Simon and Andrew who were suddenly called by Jesus, we have the season of Advent, which gives us the opportunity to prepare ourselves to meet Him. The season invites us to get out of everyday life and stop to reflect on the call that He makes to us and on the promise we made to follow Him without conditions.

And like He did with Simon and Andrew, He calls us to make a radical change in our lives. To question what we do routinely and become aware of whether it is enough.

Why? Because today, as we seek to put God’s love into action, we realize that more and more people need a decent place to live. Because, in trying to demonstrate the love of Jesus Christ, we humbly become aware of all that remains to be done. And today, as Simon and Andrew did, we must arm ourselves with courage to get out of our daily routine and act head-on to change lives and transform communities.

Like Simon and Andrew, we can be sure that Jesus will accompany us along the way. He will teach us and guide us. He will not leave us alone. He will strengthen us, and He will light our way. I invite you to let go of your nets, as Simon and Andrew did, and trust in the new path to achieve the greatest potential of our ministry.

Prayer

Lord Jesus, You who came into the world and called us by name, give us strength to let go of the nets of our routine work and help us find new ways to reach more and more people every day. Inspire in us what we can do differently to achieve what You have called us to do. Multiply our efforts and guide us on our way so that, trusting in Your presence, we can more strongly promote dignity and hope through housing. Amen.

Questions

  1. What can I do to prepare myself even better this Advent season to renew my fidelity to God’s plan in my life?
  2. What can I start doing differently today to expand the impact of our mission in the world?
  3. How can I set an example in my environment so that more and more people join this movement to multiply efforts and reach more families?

 

Federico Gomez is the regional change management specialist in Habitat for Humanity International’s Latin America and the Caribbean office. He is located in San José, Costa Rica.

Safe shelter leads to peace

By Erika Cotton Boyce

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.

Colossians 3:12-15, NIV

A few months ago, as I was putting my then 9-year-old son to bed, he propped himself up against the headboard and said, “Mom, you make me feel safe.” It is hard to express in words the overwhelming joy I felt in that moment. I simply hugged him and said, “I’m glad.”

A significant role Habitat for Humanity plays in the lives of the people we serve is helping to ensure that parents are able to provide their children with a safe place to call home. Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines the word “safe” as meaning secure from threat of danger, harm or loss. It can also mean being seen as trustworthy and reliable. Feeling safe is a basic human need. It represents the second tier of Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs; food, water, warmth and rest represent the first.

In our work to help others, we must also be cognizant that we rely on one another to carry out Habitat’s mission. Kindness, compassion, gentleness, patience and forgiveness, as Paul the Apostle says in Colossians 3:12-15, are the strands that make up the fabric of peace, safety and well-being. This Advent season, consider the ways in which leaning into the kind of love God has called us to practice in our lives and interactions with others will help unify us toward our common goal.

Prayer

Heavenly Father, Your word says to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. We thank You for demonstrating what this love looks like through the soul-saving gift, grace and mercy of Your presence in our lives. We ask that You continue to keep us safe as we soften our hearts to make sure that we provide safe harbor for those around us — our family, friends, colleagues, neighbors — and especially those in need. Amen.

Questions

  1. In what ways has God provided safe shelter for you?
  2. When have you found it challenging to be a safe harbor for someone else?
  3. What are some ways you can lean into love in your work or personal life?

 

Erika Cotton Boyce is the senior director of public engagement for Habitat for Humanity International. She is based in Atlanta, Georgia.

Active anticipation, joyful expectation

By Hiew Peng Wong

Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. … And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. … She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.

Luke 2:25-38 (excerpts), ESV

Patience is not my middle name. As I read about how Simeon and Anna waited for Christ, I wondered about my own reaction if I were in their shoes. If I had met the Savior, I would not have echoed Simeon’s wish to die in peace, nor would I have been so prompt as Anna to boldly speak of the Lord.  

Since both of them were very old when they encountered the infant Jesus, it may appear that they merely waited as the decades went by. But the Holy Spirit was at work, coming upon Simeon, revealing things to him and guiding him to the temple where Joseph and Mary had brought the baby. Anna, who never left the temple and fasted and prayed night and day, was ready to meet Jesus. These two believers were actively anticipating the arrival of Christ. This gives new meaning to “waiting on God.”

When we consider Habitat for Humanity’s vision, we realize it could seem like a long, long way off. Just as potential supporters may feel overwhelmed by the world’s housing needs, we may feel our efforts are minuscule.

However, it makes a world of difference when we wait on the Lord to achieve His purpose. We celebrate each family whose lives are transformed because of Habitat’s work. However, we are not like the boy/girl/man/woman in the much-adapted story who threw starfish into the ocean, hoping to make a difference for individual creatures. Our desire to glorify God is even greater, and that is the source of our joy. We are the Simeons and Annas who wait for God’s consolation and eagerly anticipate His salvation. The Bible does not say whether their paths ever crossed again having met and even held the infant Jesus. Simeon was ready to die in peace, and Anna could not wait to talk about Jesus to all who were waiting for redemption.

What about you and me? While waiting expectantly for Christ to return, we can humbly ask God to do His work through us. We seek to draw nearer to a world where everyone has a decent place to live — though that vision may not be realized in our lifetime. May the Lord make us devout — in Greek, the word means something like “firmly clinging to” — as we wait for His fulfillment. For each life that is transformed through safe, decent and affordable housing, let us give thanks to and praise God.

Prayer

God of patience and consolation, grant us like-mindedness according to Christ Jesus as we seek to be Your hands and feet on earth, so that with one voice we may glorify the Lord. Amen.

Questions

  1. What lessons can you learn from Simeon or Anna as you play your role in helping Habitat move closer to its vision?
  2. Is patience a virtue you already possess or something you would like to cultivate? How can you ask God to build you up in this respect?
  3. Simeon also blessed Joseph and Mary in verse 34. In what ways can you be a source of blessings to others?
  4. Anna did not wait to see how Christ’s life would turn out before she spread the word about the Savior. How can you be action-oriented and witness for Christ?

 

Hiew Peng Wong is the associate director of international content in the Global Communications division of Habitat for Humanity International. She is based in Singapore.

It is not a suggestion

By Rhoda Goremucheche

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. 

 Joshua 1:9, NIV

Joshua had a great task ahead of him, and God commanded him to be strong and courageous. It was not a suggestion. It was not an option. I am encouraged by how God repeated the command four times in this chapter of Joshua. I think God knew His servant might get overwhelmed by the importance and size of the work ahead of him and the opposition he would face.

At Habitat for Humanity, we, too, have a great task ahead of us. Just as with Joshua, being strong and courageous is not optional. Our vision and mission compel us to be courageous. Our commitment to the families and communities we partner with and serve demands courage. Now more than ever, we have no choice but to remain strong and courageous in our roles across the network, as individuals, as teams, in projects and programs, and in our bold global initiatives. Yes, we will get overwhelmed sometimes with circumstances like natural disasters, political instability and the far-reaching effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Disappointments will come, and our efforts may feel like a tiny drop in the ocean of desperation, marginalization and need. Yet we will remember that the Lord said to Joshua, Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” That promise is alive and active for us too.

God commands us to be strong and courageous because He is with us in whatever we do, wherever we go. In our weakness, His strength is made perfect. He promised to help and support us  Psalm 20:2; Nehemiah 8:10. In the midst of difficulties, we need the courage to wait on Him. That does not mean we become idle and dismayed in the face of challenges or by looking at the sheer size of the housing deficit. We have to prayerfully and actively wait as we work, fully expecting God to show up.

As we celebrate this Advent season, I wonder what it would be like if we could wait with faithful expectation like Anna and Simeon in Luke 2:25-38? They waited for the Messiah for a long time. They waited in prayer, in fasting and in worship. Circumstances around them, the passage of time and the political environment did not discourage them. They both got to see Christ with their own eyes.

What is that we are waiting expectantly for God to do?

Prayer

Our Father, we thank You that You are good. Always. Thank You for Your promises that are yes and amen through Christ unto Your glory. Everything that is good that we have accomplished through the Habitat ministry is because of You. In this Advent season, please teach us, remind us, show us how to be courageous and strong in You. We cannot stand in our own strength, and we ask that You help us to embrace Your grace and receive Your strength. We ask and we receive this in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Questions

  1. How are you being called to be strong and courageous in this season?
  2. What is your reaction to the idea that being strong and courageous is not merely a suggestion? How can that be encouraging to you?
  3. Are there any particular delays and disappointments (professionally or personally) that you want to hand over to God?
  4. When have you experienced blessings at a time when God called you to be courageous? How can you call upon God’s promises today as a result?

 

Rhoda Goremucheche is a global evaluation and research manager for program effectiveness for Habitat for Humanity International. She is based in Pretoria, South Africa.