Our Webber Street day centre provides food, showers, clothes, health services, friendship, and advice to the homeless who sleep close to Waterloo and London’s Southbank. Each day we provide breakfast and this week I had the privilege of attending our Christmas meal and talking about the Good News described in Isaiah 9 for people living in darkness. Whilst we ate our turkey I got talking to the men sitting on my table and heard their stories. P is in his twenties and has a PhD in physics (and discussed quantum gravity with me to prove he wasn’t a story teller). Q is an older gentleman who graduated from the London School of Economics. R is an Irish man who hasn’t been home to Dublin for 30 years and used to work on building sites before he got too old for it. Each man was full of remarkable stories and could have kept me talking for hours. They discussed Isaiah 9 and young P was explaining to Q that the equations of physics describe a universe so unnecessarily beautiful that he felt that belief in a God was the most straightforward explanation. R said he felt he’d had religion beaten out of him by the monks at his school. All of the men had sad stories explaining how they’d managed to end up on the streets. None were beyond the redemption or the love of God. It struck me that most people would enjoy sitting and chatting with these fellas so why are there so few volunteers to work with London’s homeless and marginalised?
I guess fear is one of the main reasons. We imagine “marginalised people” are very different from us and so we have a fear of the unknown. “What could I say?”, “The cultural gap is just too great”.
At Christmas we remember the coming of Jesus, Immanuel, God with us. He crossed an enormous cultural divide to be with us. He went from being in heaven, served by a host of angels, and constantly loved to being a child of peasants, misunderstood, and mistreated. He didn’t just come to have a friendly chat with us, but he gave his life sacrificially so that we can know the forgiveness and love of God. I pray that this year Christians across London will reach across cultural gaps to speak of our hope and good news with the elderly, the homeless, the single mums, the Bangladeshi neighbours, the people who are different to us. As we do that we have a promise from the greatest cross cultural missionary of all time. “All authority in heaven and earth have been given to me, and I will be with you always”.