It is one of the sources of immense frustration for the christian journey: that God somehow seems remote, invisible, at times when we turn to Him. How do we make such strong affirmations of faith, declaring the presence of God with us in all things, yet know those times of isolation and wonderment when we are in the grips of crisis?
As we celebrate the Christmas events, we are reminded again of the God who chose not to remain aloof from His creation, but entered in the most vulnerable of forms, and grew within it into manhood. Whilst it is something that we (rightly) celebrate together, it also raises significant questions of faith. Sometimes it would be easier if we kept God remote and removed from all that happens on earth. As Phillip Yancey comments, "The more personal conception we have of God, the more unnerving are the questions we ask about Him".
A God who intervenes, from a human standpoint, is capricious unless He intervenes at every step. But what room does this leave for human freedom? Is God uncaring when he acts in response to one person's prayers, and is seemingly unmoved in the face of another's? These are very difficult questions: ones which bear an extremely personal face for some of us.
It is an amazing paradox that the very act which we celebrate for symbolising God's drawing near to us raises questions about God's apparent remoteness. It is fat easier to excuse a God who has never walked among us for continued inaction in relation to suffering, whether personal, national, or tribal. But God never looked for an excuse; it was an outpouring, an outworking of His character that sent Jesus amongst us. The risk of not coming was far greater.
And so we are left with questions, with ponderings, with logical challenges to our understanding of God. And we must live with these, for they are the fruit of a critical truth of faith: that God entered this world in human form, in order that we might be restored to Him.
'Joy to the World, the Lord is come!'
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