Advent devotionals are proliferating as ministries and faith-based nonprofits seek to connect the dots between the spirit of the season and their organizations’ missions and the plight of those in need.
Many churches produce their own Advent devotional guides, but so do a variety of Christian nonprofits — who use the seasonal inspirations to stay front-of-mind with donors during the most intensive giving season of the year and the season when people are the most open to care for the plight of others.
For the Western Church, Advent, the Christian season of anticipation leading to Christmas, runs Nov. 28 to Dec. 24. Most nonprofits bring in a significant portion of their annual income in the same period.
This year, the devotional messages of these nonprofits most often are tied to the ongoing pandemic.
This year, the devotional messages of these nonprofits most often are tied to the ongoing pandemic. Whether delivered in book or pamphlet format, on websites, through e-mail or download, the meditations offered in 2021 seek to counter the challenges of pandemic and social strife with scriptural and prayerful perspectives designed to instill hope.
Habitat for Humanity acknowledges the recent struggles of its clients in its four-week, online Advent devotional.
“Without question, this has been a rough year for families who partner with Habitat for Humanity, for our local affiliates and for our ministry, especially internationally,” the nonprofit explains on its site. “Many are still struggling with the sickness, stress and sorrow that COVID-19 has caused. But the good news is that our God does awesome and miraculous things during rough times.”
But the hope promised in Advent also was in evidence during this trying period, the devotional site adds. “God is always working behind the scenes. In Habitat for Humanity’s transformational goals to triple our funds, scale and impact as the global leader in addressing the housing deficit, God is at work. Trust him, prepare for the fruit and be patient.”
The meditation urges a positive outlook in the coming weeks and months. “So, as we celebrate this Advent season, let us look forward with expectation. Let us not surrender to despair or let the rough season that we’ve been through cast doubt on the great future that awaits us.”
In its downloadable “Advent Family Devotional Guide,” Food for the Poor uses seasonal themes to help participants identify with those suffering from hunger.
“While many of us here in the United States cannot fully understand this level of poverty, we can certainly understand the power of waiting in hope. In our journey through Advent, a season of waiting and preparation, we invite you to spend a few minutes each week reflecting with us,” the Christian feeding and emergency aid organization says in its devotional.
Participants also are invited to use Advent as a time to build bonds of fellowship, even with those who are absent.
“At Christmas we are reminded that Jesus entered this world in a humble way; this is perhaps the foundation for his love for the least of those among us. Your Food for The Poor family looks forward to gathering around the lowly manger with you, rejoicing in the birth of the Savior who came to bring his hope, peace, joy and love to all — to the mother in Haiti, to us, and to you.”
Other devotions aim to ease readers’ fears.
“Hope is hard to find during a long pandemic. Dark feelings of grief, loss, anger, betrayal and despair plague our souls and our communities,” according to the description of “Night Watch,” a four-week series of congregational devotions published by The Presbyterian Outlook. “As the light fades and the evenings grow long this December, the season of Advent reminds us that God is with us in the night.”
The devotions also stress the communal dimensions of the season. “As Advent begins, our nights stretch long. There is more darkness now than any other time of the year. Let’s walk together into the night to see what God reveals.”
Participants also are encouraged to consider a different perspective when experiencing dark times. “The metaphor of darkness runs throughout the Bible — typically associated with evil and sin. But darkness does not mean the absence of God. When the sun disappears below the horizon, God doesn’t vanish with it. The night is part of God’s good creation.”
“Signs of the Sacred,” the 2021 Advent devotional of the Society of St. Andrew, challenges participants in booklet, e-mail or downloadable formats to search their lives for signs of healing and to use the process for motivation to serve those in need.
“As the Advent season arrives, we look forward to celebrating the birth of the Christ Child. Many struggles and crises from last year have continued into this year. Many people continue to ask themselves, ‘When will things get better?’” according to the national gleaning organization.
“This Advent devotional program provides a powerful opportunity for your congregation to feed their spiritual hunger as well as to give in support of the Society of St. Andrew’s feeding ministries, reflecting Jesus’ own concern for the least, the last, and the lost.”
Many of the meditations are designed for use across denominations, including Passport’s free daily Advent and Christmastide devotionals, which launch on Nov. 28 and are co-sponsored by the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, Presbyterian Mission Agency and the Episcopal Church.