Lincoln Advent: 6 December

Advent Prayers, 6 December
Community Work, Stamford

Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.
We bless you from the house of the Lord.
Psalm 118.26

There is a man who sits on the High Street. The first time I saw him – I confess – I tried to walk past him. Sometimes I speak, sometimes I bring coffee, but sometimes I walk past: choosing my plans over the unexpected moments of the streets.

Everyone was walking by him – not with the hurried, blind steps that say “I will not see you”, but in a wide wary arc, going far, far around. I tried to do the same, but as I passed, the air changed. All around him, there was a deep and compelling sense of peace. I found myself turning back.

It turns out he was praying. He smiled, and welcomed me in. He spoke of his life and the people who changed it for the better. He spoke of his regrets and the people he had hurt. He spoke of the grace of God, kindness and generosity, the beauty of light, and the tiny pink blossoms on winter trees. I got him some food, I think – but he was the one with riches. He was the one sent by God.

Vincent Van Gogh once wrote to his brother: “I cannot help thinking that the best way of knowing God is to love many things.” To act as Christ today, there are many things we might do: give food, give time, get involved in a local project. But it is possible to do all these things and never let ourselves be changed by them. It is possible to walk a wide arc around the people we meet, even as we convince ourselves otherwise. To change – to become Christ today – it is not that we need to do many things, but to love many things. God invites us to love the moment we find ourselves in, the conversation in the street, and the prayer unexpectedly given by the one sitting on the ground. We may not always know how to help – or know whether we are being asked for help or given help – but if we can respond to the invitation to love, we will be changed; and through us others will be changed too.

Today we pray for the Community Work of Christ Church, Stamford: pray that those involved will learn to love many things deeply and find God in all they do.

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