I recently heard someone say that if you waited for every traffic light to be green on your journey you would never start the journey. This is particularly true of the journey of Christian faith, because people see the end - belief in God but then look along the way and see one or more red lights, which they cannot progress past, so they remain unsure about God, stuck either undecided about God’s existence or more radical - certainty that there is no God.
Red lights vary between different people, but some common red lights are: the suffering in the world, tragic sudden death, or the death of a loved one, particularly a child. As a vicar you encounter all these situations and also see how different a persons response can be when the very foundations of their life is shaken.
When you watch someone in pain day after day, struggling to cope with life, struggling to live, some are glad to have a God to shout at and ask why? Some deny God, have no one to shout at, and despair of the situation.
Grief is like a river that follows many different courses but some people are glad to have a God to shout at and ask why? They have hope of being re-united in heaven. Some deny God, have no one to shout at, and no hope of being re-united.
The heart wrenching loss of a child often releases a fury of anger against God, but thats ok for God is God, God can take it. At least if you believe in God you can be angry at God, if you do not believe in God, were does the anger go?
Some of you my ask, how can you shout at God? Is there any point, does God hear us? does God feel our pain? Well in many ways Christmas is about answers to these very questions. At Christmas, God - that sometimes distant character in our lives - comes close to us - in fact he becomes the God who is with us - that is the very essence of Christmas - the technical word is INCARNATION. God steps down into this world as an innocent vulnerable baby to experience what we experience, to suffer how we suffer so that God knows what we feel and how we feel.
I am glad I know a God I can shout at, cry out to and be very cross with, because through God’s only son, Jesus, God feels our pain as intensely as we feel the pain.
Christmas does this! Yes Christmas is about Shepherds, Angels, Innkeepers, donkeys, miraculous births, prophecy, faithfulness and much more - but at its heart, is the God who steps down -bringing light to world that is dark and hope to a people who need a God to cry out to.
May ALL your lights this Christmas be Green
PS Got questions? Want to know more? Then watch out for in the New Year we will be running a series on “Everything you wanted to ask about God but were afraid to ask” - The “Y” series.