The Connections between Advent and Poverty Alleviation

Advent is the season for longing. It’s a time when we look back to Christ’s coming in time and space, yes, but also a time for looking forward to Christ’s return. Advent strains to see the light of restoration at the end of the darkness, when Jesus completes His work of making all things new, wiping away every tear, and banishing death, mourning, crying, and pain (Rev. 21:4-5).

The longing of Advent infuses our work at the Chalmers Center. Our mission is to help God’s people rethink poverty and respond with practical biblical principles so that all are restored to flourishing. This is a mission and vision of longing, aspiring to see churches and Christian organizations live out the reality of Jesus’ kingdom in this “already and not yet” world.

The Themes of Advent

In many Christian traditions, we mark this season by the lighting of candles arranged on a wreath during each of the Sunday worship services leading up to Christmas. The wreath itself symbolizes God’s unchanging character, and His unbroken, unbreakable eternal plan. The five candles each represent an aspect of longing—hope, peace, joy, and love—and then the culmination of our faith in the once and future coming of Christ.

Advent’s focus on longing can shape and strengthen our call to care for and proclaim good news to those in poverty (cf. Luke 4:18-19).


We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently” (Rom. 8:22-25).

Biblically, hope is not merely looking for something yet unseen. Rather it is the latching hold of the sure and certain promises of God based on His past faithfulness to His people. The gospel message of hope speaks to those in material poverty with the assurance that their suffering is not God’s ultimate plan for human beings and reminds them of the certain reality of God’s promised restoration and His sustaining grace for them in the present. 

Gospel hope calls all believers to lean forward, living today in light of the promise of the New Jerusalem, “looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God” (Heb. 11:10). It calls those working to address material poverty to endure in work that is often difficult with the knowledge that God is ultimately the one at work to bring about His new creation, freeing us to work faithfully knowing that outcomes are in His hands.


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. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this” (Isa. 9:6-7).

The biblical idea of peace, in the Old Testament shalom, is more than just the absence of conflict. It means harmony, prosperity, comprehensive happiness, and wholeness. Scripture speaks of Jesus as the righteous King who will increase this peace, this wholeness, without end, reconciling all things by the blood of His Cross (Col. 1:20). 

Material poverty is a life of intense peace-less-ness—upheaval and instability, and separation from the resources and relationships that facilitate flourishing—and so the work of poverty alleviation is a very tangible aspect of Christians’ call to “let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts” (Col. 3:15). May we all, materially poor and materially wealthy, recognize that God desires our unity with each other in Christ, and may we rest in the fact that He is working this out by His own power.


And Mary said: ‘My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior’” (Luke 1:46-47).

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:2-4).

How does joy fit into thinking about material poverty? Remember, the gospel is good news to the poor (Isa. 61:1, Luke 4:18). Because this is true, we can live in light of eternity, and refuse to lose sight of the wonder that God breaks into the story of the brokenness of a fallen world to bring redemption. Mary, a young girl from an oppressed people, most likely impoverished as well, received the first coming of the Messiah with rejoicing. As we long for Jesus to make all things new, we can rejoice at every story of transformation, every evidence of the new life in Christ that He brings forth.


Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever” (Ps. 118:1)

For no one is cast off by the Lord forever. Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love. For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to anyone” (Lam. 3:31-33).

The mark of all our poverty alleviation work should be love. No other motive can sustain true, transformative ministry—we do Christ’s work through Christ’s means. Love in poverty alleviation calls us to be incarnational in our approach to material poverty, being present in the lives and communities of those we serve, and walking patiently across time. Only Christ in us can sustain that work for the long haul.

In the Midst of Longing

Just as Jesus is both the goal and source of all the themes of Advent, He gave us the model and the metaphor for what this ministry looks like by His incarnation and sacrifice on our behalf: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich” (2 Cor 8:9). 

As you pursue your ministry calling, may you find rest in the hope, peace, joy, and love that Christ points us to. From all of us at the Chalmers Center, we wish you a blessed Christmas as we long for the day when the dwelling place of God is with us again.

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The Chalmers Center

The Chalmers Center

The Chalmers Center helps God’s people rethink poverty and respond with practical biblical principles so that all are restored to flourishing.

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