Monica Lewis is a passionate supporter of our work, including as a Global Village team leader and a volunteer on our ChangeMakers Programme, which explores social justice and active citizenship with 16-18 year olds. Monica encourages us to spread the Christmas message of hope and love in her Advent Reflection.
Advent is essentially a period of preparation for change, a readying of ourselves for a better life, a transition from the time before Christ's birth to the time when Christians have His life and teachings as models on which to base their thinking and behaviour.
It is also a time when we bear in mind the accountability that will be required of us all at the end of time.
In the light of this we may well want to assess our own focus: are we bearing in mind Jesus' intention in coming into the world? Do we remember that He said in John 10.10.: 'I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.'?
He believed that all should have access to the hope and potential for abundant life that He preached during his life.
In that 'first advent' when the crowd asked John the Baptist in the desert what they should do to prepare for the forthcoming arrival of the Messiah, Luke reports (3.11) that John urged them not to flee, not to bury their heads in the sand but to act, to change their behaviour and to promote justice for all. They should feed the hungry, clothe the poor and ensure that those in the community who were exploited should be treated with justice by leaders who used their authority responsibly and with equity.
The crowd was not made up of powerful men but of ordinary Jews who were anticipating the imminent arrival of the Messiah. John was not recommending that they rely on the high and mighty to change the treatment of others but rather that they should themselves be agents of that change.
Habitat for Humanity clearly takes seriously this responsibility of the ordinary citizen to work in the manner recommended by John the Baptist and reiterated by Jesus during His life. They aim to bring love and hope to the 23% of the world's population that do not have a decent place to live and are therefore deprived of the possibility of achieving their full potential as Christ intended that they should.
We who have had the privilege of working in a Global Village Team have had an opportunity to see at first hand the change that can be brought about, and the hope that can be conveyed, by the simple action of working with others to put a roof over the heads of a family.
However, it is not only the lot of those who are so clearly excluded that we seek to improve. Even in our privileged situation, too many of us live in our little bubble, leaving it to others to bring about the changes that we would wish for, forgetting that we too are required to act rather than bury our heads and that we must speak up for those that have no voice.
Habitat's work in advocating for the poor throughout the world, in supporting local community programmes for those neglected by society and in educating our schoolchildren about their ability to bring about change is perhaps less appreciated, but nevertheless invaluable, in enabling others to live life to the full, in bringing the message of love and hope that is central to our understanding of Christmas to those who have not yet heard it.
In this Advent period we pray that all those working towards justice for all receive God's strength and support; we remember the words of the hymn:
He sent me to give good news to the poor
Tell prisoners that they are prisoners no more
Tell blind people that they can see,
And set the downtrodden free
And go tell everyone
The news that the kingdom of God has come
Make a special Christmas gift to help families in urgent need of a safe place to call home.
Read more Advent Reflections here.