I switched on the radio and heard a report, live from The Philippines. Another devastating typhoon had hit the islands. I cannot remember what was said about the loss of life; all I remember is the sound I heard in the background. The reporter did not need to mention that he was reporting from a makeshift maternity ward, I had already recognised the unmistakable screams of a woman giving birth.
It took me back to the day, eight years ago this month, when we welcomed a beautiful baby girl in our Vicarage. The contrast could not be greater. There was a comfortable warm room, running water, soft towels, midwives, and a clean cot. Everything went very smoothly, and mother and child were doing well; thanks be to God!
But isn’t it unfair? Christians and non-Christians alike struggle with the question of suffering. If God is good, then why does he allow typhoons to cause such terrible destruction? Some try and defend God by pointing out that most disasters, even the ones we call ‘natural’, are often caused by human-induced climate change. However true that may be, to me it does not provide a very satisfying answer to the simple ques-tion why my baby girl may live, while her sister in The Philippines should die.
Next month we celebrate Christmas. We remember how two thousand years ago, God was faced with a choice. His only son was to be born a human – but where? In the relative safety of a settled middle-class family in Jerusalem, surrounded by the best medical care available in those days, perhaps? Or, in the scandalous context of a teenage illegitimate pregnancy, and in the unhygienic surroundings of a dark, cold, dirty stable? What a choice…
In my imagination, I hear a young mother scream. In my imagination, I hear her baby crying. In my imagination, I see God choosing to draw close to us in our suffering.
With Advent blessings to you and your loved ones