This is golden oldie, written in 1997. The bible background is 1 Kings 19.1-18.
The prophet Elijah was sitting in his cave, feeling sorry for himself. An angel appeared to him and said, ‘Cheer up. God loves you.’
Elijah said to the angel, ‘That’s easy enough for you to say. You don’t have to live here, day after day. You don’t have to make your way through this miserable, mixed-up world. You don’t have to deal with the same stubborn, godless people every day. You don’t have to try to live a good, godly life amongst all the sin and wickedness and debauchery and devil-may-care partying. You don’t live my kind of life. You can just breeze in, deliver your message, and shoot off back to heaven.’
But the angel replied, ‘No, really, God does love you.’
Elijah said, ‘Look. All the things I’ve said about you, I could say about God. This rotten world’s going down the drain. Everyone hates each other. Relationships are breaking down. There’s dreadful poverty right next to fantastic wealth and no-one seems to care. No-one’s bothered about God. What does God really know as he peers down from his lofty throne? What does God really know about what life on this planet is actually like? How can God love us when he does nothing to help us except send angels now and then to say, “God loves you.” There comes a point when words just aren’t enough. What we need is action. So don’t you stand there saying your piece over and over again. Clear off!’
The angel fluttered to the entrance of the cave, safely out of Elijah’s reach. He said, ‘God loves you, Elijah. God loves everyone, and he’s going to prove it. He is going to do something, and I’m going to show you what it is. Watch this space.’ And the angel disappeared.
Elijah stared at the mouth of his cave. Suddenly it started to snow. ‘That’s odd for this time of year,’ said Elijah. ‘Must be God.’ But God wasn’t in the snowstorm.
Then Elijah heard sleigh-bells, but God wasn’t in the sleigh-bells.
Then Elijah heard a deep voice booming, ‘Ho Ho Ho!’ But God wasn’t in the voice.
Elijah heard carol singers, oxen lowing, sheep bleating, donkeys braying, robins tweeting, envelopes being opened, carving knives being sharpened, corks popping, crackers cracking, fathers snoring, shepherds singing lullabyes and a little drummer boy. But God wasn’t in any of these.
‘You’re wasting my time!’ shouted Elijah above the din. Then he heard a choir of thousands of angels singing their hearts out. ‘Now that’s more like it,’ thought Elijah. But God wasn’t even in the angels’ singing.
Suddenly, all the noise went quiet, and the snow stopped falling. The snow on the ground melted and made everything muddy. Elijah strained his eyes in the darkness and his ears in the silence. All he could hear was, very faintly, the crying of a baby. And God was in the crying.
Elijah wrapped his cloak around him and went out to the entrance of his cave. ‘It’ll never work,’ he said to the darkness and the silence. ‘It’ll never work. The risks are too great. Anyway, how can a baby save the world and prove anything about God’s love? The whole idea’s cock-eyed. Now, those thousands of angels – that was on the right track. But a baby …?’
The baby was still crying, and the more that Elijah thought about it and the more that he listened to the crying, the more he wondered if, maybe, this was just what was needed – this was exactly the way – perhaps the only way – to save the world.
© 1997, Alex Mabbs.