Rebecca Ochong is the senior manager of Hilti Pillar 3 for the Asia-Pacific region at Habitat for Humanity International. She is based in the Philippines. Read her reflection below.
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. - Isaiah 9:6
For most of this year, social media and news channels constantly have streamed accounts of countries on lockdown, updates on travel restrictions, numbers of cases of COVID-19, escalating death totals, and reports on the global economy. The coronavirus pandemic has been the central focus of the whole world, making many fear the uncertainty of what’s ahead. Everything feels chaotic and uncertain. I often find myself asking when all this will end as the fear of the unknown and anxiety sometimes seem overwhelming.
At the same time, I am reminded that there are many for whom the lockdown is much worse; their lives are a harrowing struggle. Not everyone can safely shelter in place, and we at Habitat for Humanity know that for many families, stay-at-home orders aren’t as straightforward as they sound. The places that far too many call home are not always healthy environments, and many people do not have access to clean water for washing their hands.
Countless individuals have seen their livelihoods dissipate, and at Habitat, we have seen many of our own colleagues impacted by restructuring. Some people are facing loneliness and fear while others are sick or struggling with mental health issues.
During such times, where do we find hope, peace, joy and stability? Psalm 46 tells us that God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.
Advent reminds us that we can still claim hope. We remember that the baby in the barn brought the angels to song, the carpenter brought rulers to their knees, and the man on the cross brought redemption to the world. His light does shine. God sent His Son into the world to gain for us a forgiveness that we do not deserve. God sent His Son into the world to take off our slave-chains and to heal the wounds that they have caused. God sent His Son into the world to solve the problems of sin and death once and for all. And God will send His Son into the world again — this time, to bring to completion all that He began when He walked the dusty roads of Galilee, walked to His own execution, and walked out of a cold and lonely tomb.
Jesus Christ is with us, and upon His shoulder dominion rests. To this hope we cling during these troubled times. Our story will not end in darkness, so with the psalmist we can say, “Yes, Lord, you do see; you take note of this misery and sorrow; you take the matter in hand. The Lord is king forever” (Psalm 10:14,16, NABRE). Let us not surrender ourselves to despair but instead brave reality with the steadfast weapon God has granted to us: hope.
Heavenly Father, every word in Scripture points to the gift of hope that we have because of Christ Jesus. The Christmas story wasn’t the beginning of that message of hope, for the Old Testament is full of glimpses of Your plan to redeem Your people and restore them into a relationship with You.
When Your Son was not birthed in a fancy palace among the wealthy and the elite, but rather among common shepherds and livestock in a barn, we got a glimmer that hope is for us all. Help us to see that You are with us. Nothing is too difficult, too messy or too dirty for You. Jesus came to give us the gift of eternal life through the salvation that only You, our Heavenly Father, can give when we believe on Your Son, repent of our sins and confess Jesus as our Lord and Savior. Amen.