It was late as the visitor slipped into the back of the church and the evening office had begun.
The minister in his stall, half turned his head; had he been seen, had anyone noticed him? In the distance he could just make out bowed heads in the choir and hear the low murmur of age honoured words … ‘we have followed to much the devices and desires ….. thou, O Lord, have mercy upon us ….’ Have they, he wondered? What is it that they have done, or not done, that could trouble the Almighty? My soul doth magnify the Lord …. the familiar words of the Magnificat, sung with gusto, broke through his reverie. Clearly, they are assured of mercy now. Time to leave.
The evening office had just begun when the minister thought he saw a movement. There, half hidden in the shadow beside the pillar; a visitor? Turning back to his little congregation he carried on. No one comes, but in the quiet of the moment, he hears the faint click of the latch. Later he asks ‘did anyone see our visitor?’ No one saw or heard a thing. Had he been dreaming? No, he was sure that someone had been there, if only for a few moments.
The visitor had gone. He had a schedule to meet, another church to visit, a home to return to. He’d set himself a task, a pilgrimage of sorts, so now he hurried on. No time to linger here; he had attended the evening office, another destination ticked off, job done.
As the visitor was rushing from place to place, the minister wondered who had been here, and why had he stayed so short a time? The mystery shopper. Rating us or …. ??? What if this mystery visitor had been the Lord himself, answering the call of those who prayed so earnestly. Had we missed him? What of the words spoken so earnestly in his name, did he own them?
A visitor came that night; who was he and who blessed whom?
Rev’d Philip Payne
Advent 3 the Notice Sheet for 11th December can be found here