Lincoln Advent: 18 December

Advent Prayers, 18 December
Fenside Society

O Adonai

O Adonai, Ruler of the house of Israel.
you appeared to Moses in a flame of fire,
and gave him the law on Sinai:
come and deliver us with an outstretched arm.

Let justice roll down like waters,
and righteousness like an everlasting stream.
(Amos 5.24)

Embedded deep in our faith – deep in all the ancient religions – is the practice of hospitality. Abraham’s hospitality to angels led to Sarah’s laughter and descendants as numerous as the stars. The raven’s hospitality sustained Elijah in the desert and kept prophecy alive. Joseph’s hospitality gave Jesus a place to grow; and Jesus’ own hospitality, to the poor and the outcast, turned the world upside down.

Some people seem to take to hospitality naturally. I am always a bit envious – and deeply in awe – of those who can manage to surround their kitchen table each day with whomever is passing, whomever needs a friend. Meal after meal, and pot after pot of tea are offered, without apparent plan or concern for time. Their openness to the moment speaks of the grace of God. And there, I laugh at the happy chaos of it. It is delightful to find the hen roosting atop a pile of cookbooks, and the cat curled in the chair. It is fine that the papers are everywhere, and half the table is given over to painted stars. What could be better, than to join life in the midst?

But seldom, when I turn to my own house, do I use the same generous eye. In my head, I see a perfect table: candle-lit flowers and warm bread. But usually, the mess is still growing when – oh, help: there’s the door.

The enemy of hospitality is perfectionism. Christine Pohl puts it like this: “If we wait until everything is perfect, we’ll rarely offer anyone welcome, and when we do, we are likely to be exhausted.” (Living into Community, p. 166) Mary was not ready for Gabriel – but her wild ‘yes’ made her host to God.

As Christmas approaches, the question of hospitality surrounds us. With whom will you share your table? With whom will you share your time? With whom will you share your wealth and your laughter? How will you be Christ today?

Today we pray for The Fenside Society, which helps churches and local groups to work more effectively for social justice and community cohesion. Pray for all who are involved, that they will have the generosity of spirit to make others welcome, and be open to the unexpected ways of God.

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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.

the original post is here.