The vulnerable, lost and lonely are all around us but easily slip under the radar. Today, let’s forego the chance to chat with those we’re familiar with and instead focus on someone new. Look out for the newcomer or the one hovering on the fringes. We’re sending a message, loud and clear: I noticed you. God sees you. You matter.
Green: Go out of your way to strike up a conversation with someone who is new or somebody you haven’t noticed before.
Amber: If a new person has joined your church or school or workplace, invite them along to something and check how they are settling in.
Red: Determine to befriend someone on the fringes and help them feel they belong for the long-term.
‘Rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.’ Philippians 2:7 (NIV)
With New Year’s Eve 2019 looming, I was dreaming of an evening in front of the fire with friends, watching a film. There would be a takeaway winging its way to us and a good bottle open. The ideal way to see in 2020.
Then one of my friends threw a spanner in the works. He suggested we spend the night taking hot soup to the vulnerably housed people on the streets of our town. Honestly, I wasn’t thrilled by the idea. It sounded more cold than cosy, and more like effort than entertainment. But I soon found myself being dragged around Tesco, loading tins of vegetable soup into a trolley and, before long, we were on the streets of the city centre with steaming flasks and cups.
As we got chatting to the people I’d usually walk past, we learned their names (and their dogs’ names). We heard a bit about their life stories. Some gratefully took the soup and some refused it. One man showed us his artwork and another regaled us with the story of how he got stitches in his head. It was just a couple of hours out in the cold, but my heart was warmed. It was a genuinely worthwhile evening.
I was left wondering why I was so reluctant about my friend’s kind and selfless idea. The truth is that he’d seen something of Jesus more clearly than I had. When Jesus considered His equality with God (Philippians 2), He left heaven to give Himself on the cross for sinners who were far off.
Our view of God will always shape the way we live, and on the last night of 2019, I saw in sharper detail than before the outgoing selflessness of the living God. I hope and pray it changes me.
Daniel Hames is Associate Director of Union where he also lectures in theology and church history. He is a minister at St Aldates church in Oxford.
Today’s charity: Age UK
Age UK provides advice, support and friendship to older people.