Do not fear, O Zion;
do not let your hands grow weak.
The LORD, your God, is in your midst,
a warrior who gives victory;
he will rejoice over you with gladness,
he will renew you in his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing
as on a day of festival. (Zephaniah 3:16-18a)
This Advent season, even as we wait in darkness, even as we prepare for Christ to be born in our hearts anew, there are signs that already He has come. In the midst of great trials – in our midst, even – green leaves spring forth on the fig tree and unfurl before our very eyes, to declare that the kingdom of God is near.
Lately I have been confiding in those closest to me that Wednesday has become my favorite day of the week. Our “church without walls” coffee fellowship at a local shelter has become a huge blessing for me and, I hope, for many others. We gather early in the morning to brew more than 400 cups of coffee and visit with volunteers, residents and those hovering on the edges. Usually we have an opening prayer and then begin serving, but this morning we started nearly an hour early as the folks who were lined up around the block were invited in early, to gather under an outdoor shelter as the rain came down steadily.
There were stories of heartache, frustration, conflict and lost hope. And there were stories of sobriety, new housing, and the chance to go to school.
It is amazing to me how quickly a community has sprung up among us – a community of folks, from a wide variety of places and life experiences, who manage to find common ground. The thing about being in crisis or facing a frightening transition is that it becomes difficult, if not downright impossible, to hide behind a façade. When you lose most or all of the worldly goods that make you feel safe and cushioned, you no longer have much of anything to protect.
We are a motley crew of the addicted and the recovering, the devoutly Christian and the skeptical, those seeking a sense of home and those merely passing through. In those shared moments, over coffee and conversation and prayer, we are brother and sister, we are true kin. For a couple of hours, we inhabit a bit of holy ground on this beautiful earth, our island home. We are part of the family of God, and we find He is with us even in our waiting.
Jesus is in our midst.