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by Jenny Tisi

During the summer, I get to do my second most favorite part of my job: I get to sit for hours and choose music for the next choir season. One of the anthems that I  picked for January is called “Angels Unaware.” Although the title has its roots in my most favorite Bible verse, Hebrews 13:2, “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares,” the words to the song clearly state who these strangers are. The strangers are identified as our homeless brothers and sisters.

The lyrics are:

People all around, they’re around on the corner
People who have needs, who have need of care.
Many who take time to be kind have been kind to angels unaware.

People on the street, on the street we are walking,
open up your eyes, you may see them there.
Many who take time to be kind have been kind to angels unaware.

Or is the stranger just a brother?
Just a brother of humanity?
Or a sister who is tired?
Who is suffering inside?
Who needs healing in her soul?

If we open up our eyes
And we try to be kind
Showing love and care
It’s like there are angels everywhere.
– Pepper Choplin

Every time I listen to this song, I can barely make it through without crying. And like so many, I have a heart for those who are homeless, yet I do not know how to be the best help.

During a sermon last year, Ed Bacon said that when he passes homeless on the street, he says to himself, “That is my brother. That is my sister.” And I have tried to do that very same thing. And through our church reading of the book “Finding Your Way Home,” I have taken one of the chapter names, which is a principal followed at the Women of Magdalene home, and hung it on my door so that I read it every time I leave my home. It simply says, “Think of the stranger as God”.

In the next two weeks, I will have two opportunities to interact closely with my homeless brothers and sisters. These two opportunities are becoming a yearly tradition during the Advent season. One is being a part of our Homeless Memorial Service at All Saints. Sixteen of our Trouveres will be singing the “Angels Unaware” piece for this service. This service, for me, is so grounding and brings me back to what this season of Advent is all about. It’s about so much more than ourselves, which, in so many ways, is sadly what this season has become.

The second opportunity is to be a part of the “Messiah Project.” This is the second year that several singers from the LA Master Chorale, along with other singers like myself, and several members of the LA Philharmonic join together to sing selections of Handel’s “Messiah” for the homeless on Skid Row. This organization of musicians make up the Street Symphony, which do many events throughout the year to bring music to those who are homeless.

img_9606The concert will be held at the Midnight Mission on Skid Row … out of my comfort zone and in their space. I cannot think of a single thing that I have ever been a part of during this time of year that has more meaning than this. Those who are homeless sing with us. One brother is even the tenor soloist. The connection that  between the gathered members of the homeless community and the gathered musicians is deep. We become one community. We are no longer us and them.

And really that brings me back to the “Think of the stranger as God.”

God is never separate from us. How can I possibly think that these brothers and sisters are not angels? Are not God? If God dwells in me, then so do they. And so, I will remind myself of that every moment that I see these brothers and sisters on the street. What can I do to bring them joy? What can I do to bring them hope? Peace? Love?

Oh Advent — you make me get outside of myself. If only I could make a better effort to stay there.

During the Season of Advent, we will offer daily meditations from All Saints Church. Today’s is written by Jenny Tisi, Director of Children and Youth Choirs.