The First Sunday after Christmas

Coming back from Ipswich I was flagged down on the A1101. I knew there was a problem. Cars at that angle off the road, down the incline, between the trees are not evidence that all is well. I stopped and all was well – for the driver – somewhat shaken who had lost control of the car and went off the road. The car, too, seemed ok, but very stuck. Another car stopped and we tried to push it out. No way. It needed towing. For the next 40 or so minutes until the car was towed (by a kind truck driver who happened to be passing) I did very little except loan my phone, try and stop people getting run over, and stay warm.
A few months ago in Coventry I was driving on a dual carriageway when a car hit a pedestrian on the other side of the barrier. Terrible. By the time I had got around and parked, there were people supporting the injured person. I checked that things seemed to be in hand as we waited and then stood back and prayed. I read the next day that she died.

In my first year here on one night going the whole 11 miles from Beck Row to Brandon I came across and stopped at three car accidents. The first was a single vehicle single occupant fatality. The second saw both cars written-off but the people ok. And the third was just a ‘fender bender’ But I still remember the feeling as I saw the blue flashing lights that third time, ‘just what is going on?’!

I’ve stopped at accidents and been told I’m not needed. (The best line to me is still the young policewoman in Australia at night and out in the bush who replied when I asked – wearing my clerical collar – if I was needed at all, ‘Oh no Father, they lived!’.) I’ve stopped at accidents and the police have asked me to help them in some way. I’ve also stopped at acci-dents and while the police didn’t want me, the victims on hearing that a vicar / priest was around called out for me to come into the ambulance and talk with them. There are times when I can’t stop and so like many people do, I pray and keep going. There is no script here; no rules; no commonly agreed protocol; it’s the messiness of life unfolding. Life is going along and all of a sudden there’s an incident, an accident, a ‘something’ and life might not be the same again.

Surely in this age of rising atheism, scepticism, and secularism wouldn’t it be good for God, when accidents occurred (when many people do call out for help), if he helped the people dramatically then and there – people healed, cars repaired, situation ‘restored’ – and left a calling card or mes-sage – perhaps a note from heaven or message in the sky – ‘this help was brought to you by Je-sus’? We think that would help God’s ‘credibility’. And I’m not about to suggest that miracles – things we can’t explain – sudden changes of circumstances don’t happen – but one of the points of Christmas is that God took his time – lived each day as a human being.

Jesus lived 9 months within Mary before he entered the world for all to see. He went through each year of life and didn’t just ‘blink’ himself to 12 years old in the temple or roughly 30 in the river Jor-dan beginning his public ministry. He lived all the days in-between. And God was with him and he grew in favour with God and those around him. God’s usual ways of helping are unseen, hidden, every day stuff because each day is not waiting for the better day to come but is important for itself – and no matter what happens in it, God will not abandon us. No wonder Jesus is our best Christ-mas present!  — GS