Lincoln Advent: 5 December

Advent Prayers, 5 December
Space4U, Spalding

“I know the plans I have in mind for you,” says the Lord,
“plans for well-being, and not for trouble, to give you a future and a hope.”
(Jeremiah 29.11, New Living Version)

Zechariah had it all planned: it was his turn to enter the sanctuary and offer incense to his Most Holy God. He liked it when it was his turn. He liked the ritual of it: preparing the fire, heating the coals, dropping the sweet sticky grains of perfume on the coals until the smoke danced high on a shaft of light. He liked waiting in silence until the darkness shimmered and God was all in all.

Afterwards, he would return to Elizabeth – to the one who shared his life. Long ago, he had hoped that others would share their lives too: a son, a daughter, a child to give delight. But that was long ago. He’d watched that hope burn on the coals until he was at peace with what he had.

His plans were simple now: he would light the incense and pray, then he would go home to Elizabeth. There they would eat and talk and laugh their way through the long evening.

Gabriel, however, had other plans. He watched as Zechariah bent over the coals. He wondered at the oddity of God’s choices – these strange people God chose for his plans. He waited for an hospitable cloud of smoke; then he stepped out of shadow and scared Zechariah half to death. (Ah yes. Gabriel liked it when it was his turn too…)

“Do not be afraid, Zechariah. God has heard your prayers. Elizabeth will bear a son and you will name him John.” Zechariah floundered as God’s plans eclipsed his own: “… a son? But how? How can I trust what you say?” He missed all the warning signs as Gabriel blazed brightly and rose in outrage.

“I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to give you good news. But now, because you would not believe my words, you will stay silent until these things come to pass.” Zechariah tried to protest, but he choked on his words. Gabriel gave an arch smile, bowed, and left Zechariah to his duties.

And so it was that Elizabeth spent nine happy months: preparing for her son, rejoicing with her cousin, and laughing (kindly) at the silent fury of her much humbled, much beloved husband.

Today, we pray for Space4U : the Spalding centre for listening and counselling. We pray for all whose lives are thrown by the unexpected, and those who help them to make sense of it.

the original post is here.

Lincoln Advent: 4 December

Advent Prayers, 4 December
FareShare Foodbanks

The disciples said to Jesus,
“Send the crowds away, so that they may go and buy food for themselves.”
Jesus said to them: “They do not need to go away; you give them something to eat.”
(from Matthew 14.15-16)

There is a woman who stands up in church every week, and talks about socks. She talks about damp socks and smelly socks. Worn out socks and fluffy new socks. She is quite passionate about fluffy new socks. New socks are a wonder: a sign of God’s love.

This woman spends her days working among the homeless. She tries to build relationships with people who have learned to trust no one, and she does that – in part – by giving them socks. So, each Sunday, she speaks with her church community about socks, the people she’s given them to, and the difference they have made. Then, she asks for more socks. Every week. Always.

She is very clever. If she spoke every week of the horrors of homelessness, of hunger, cold, pain and fear, we would feel overwhelmed. But socks are OK. We can handle socks. Socks ground us in a human story, and we can see that it is a story we might share.

At the feeding of the five-thousand, the disciples nearly lost sight of the people around them. Instead of seeing people, they saw a crowd, and that crowd was exhausting. “Send them away. We’ve done so much already. Let them go and find food somewhere else.” But Jesus would have none of it: “You give them something to eat.” You, meet their need. You, share your food and your lives and your stories. Share, until God’s presence is known.

Today, we pray for the work of FareShare Foodbanks. Fareshare redistributes food that would otherwise go to waste and co-ordinates food donations across the country. Fareshare works with local community projects , so that the food is shared in ways that help address multiple needs in the community.

you can find the original post here.

Lincoln Advent: 3 December

Advent Prayers, 3 December
Community Chaplaincy, Skegness

Reveal among us the light of your presence,
that we may behold your power and glory.
(Common Worship, prayer for Advent)

When I was a child, the biggest hint of God’s glory was hidden behind the numbered squares of an Advent Calendar. The glory was glitter, not chocolate, and it magnified the delight of carefully cut windows, painted pictures, and layers of beauty yet untold. I see now that the magic of an Advent Calendar – of the old fashioned kind at least – is the way one world lies hidden in the other. Bit by bit, the snowy street-scene opens itself up to the presence of trumpets and candy-canes, stars and bright angels, till at last we come face to face with the new-born God.

In Advent, we are asked to believe that the glory of God lies hidden in the scenes of our streets. It is there behind darkened windows and closed doors. It is there behind stressed faces and hands trembling in fear. Advent teaches us to search for a world yet revealed – to long for and expect God’s glory to emerge from the hidden places, the hard-to-get-at places, in the very last place we would expect.

Today, we pray for Community Chaplaincy in Skegness. We pray that the beauty of God will be revealed in the work that they do, the relationships they form, and the glory they uncover in the lives of those they meet.

the original post is here.

Lincoln Advent: 2 December

Advent Prayers, 2 December
Beatitude, St Mary le Wigford

Sing for Joy, O Heavens, and exult, O earth;
break forth, O mountains, into singing!
For the Lord has comforted his people
and will have compassion on his suffering ones.
(Isaiah 49.13)

The story of our salvation begins with the story of Creation: God speaks the world into being, through sheer delight and love. Too often, the church has told the story of God’s disappointment with the world: we are fallen, we have sinned. It is not that this is not true – we can see the suffering all around us – but to dwell too much on failing may sap us of the very energy we need to work towards a different sort of world. What if, instead of often telling the story of sinfulness, we told a tale of God’s glory? What if, instead of dwelling on the frequency of failure, we made time to celebrate the blessings that God gives?

This Advent, we are reflecting on Christ’s coming: yesterday, today, tomorrow. The claim of our faith is this: God Creates us in Love, through Christ the Word. In case we had missed that (and since it seemed that we had), God’s Love is creative again. Jesus comes, incarnate, to show us what human life looks like, lived in freedom and faith. Then (since we can’t take it all in at once; since we are not yet what we may become) God gives us a promise: life is stronger than death. Dwell in me, and I will dwell in you. Christ will be all in all.

‘Christ yesterday, Christ today, Christ tomorrow’ is a statement about the ultimate goodness of this creation, of human life, and of all our lives. Jesus’ story is not complete till the whole world is redeemed – until the story of sin is past, and each one of us has learned both forgiveness and love.

Today, we pray for the Beatitude project in St Mary le Wigford. Beatitude seeks to provide a place where no-one is excluded. Many of the people who come to Beatitude have heard a lot of stories of sin and pain and death. Today, we pray that they will catch a glimpse of new life and of God’s sheer delight in their coming.

you can find the original post here.