“Where is God? Where is He?” That is the question Elie Wiesel heard behind him as he witnessed Nazi soldiers hang two adults and a young boy. The boy was so small that it took more than half an hour for him to finally die. Wiesel writes: christmas
The two adults were no longer alive. Their tongues hung swollen, blue-tinged. But the third rope was still moving; being so light, the child was still alive. For more than half an hour he stayed there, struggling between life and death, dying in slow agony under our eyes (Elie Wiesel, Night, 61-62).
Indeed, in moments where evil is as dark as the night, one should ask, “Where is God?” Even in moments where evil merely casts a shadow, or momentarily eclipses the light, the appropriate question is “Where is God?”
Despite indisputable evidence of evil in our world, many Christians do not seem to ask this question. No, that is not a compliment. We have either become too afraid or too arrogant to ask, “Where is God?” We are too afraid to ask the question, because it would seemingly reflect a lack of faith or spiritual immaturity. We are too arrogant to ask, because our trite answer is simply that God is in heaven on his throne. He is sovereign; therefore, we need not ask the question, “Where is God?” As Nicholas Wolterstorff sarcastically puts it, “If God is sovereign, why lament?” While Wolterstorff whole heartedly agrees that God is sovereign, he rightly rejects the arrogant refusal by many Christians to cry out, “Where are You?”
The Christian answer to the question cannot be the pollyannaish cliché “God is in control” or “God is good all the time.” Isn’t this really just Christian jargon for, “I don’t have to worry about evil,” or “Don’t bother me with the details?” Is the perpetually sodomized young child or the parent watching his or her child hung from the gallows really comforted by the refrain “God is in control?” Surely not. In fact, it is because of the promise that God is in control that one naturally asks, “Where is God?”
It is here that we should talk about Christmas—about Bethlehem—about the incarnation. Christmas affords us the only real answer to the question “Where is God?” The birth of Jesus Christ signals that God is not merely exalted on his throne but tossed down in the trough of an animal. The birth of Jesus Christ shows that God is not simplistically “in control” but “in the chaos” of humanity, or, more to the point, inhumanity. The birth of Jesus Christ assures us that while God is good all the time, He went through hell anyway. The birth of Jesus Christ, God clothed in flesh, is evidence that God is just as present in the night as He is in the day.
“Where is God?” God is in Jesus the crucified and risen Christ. So, the question “Where is God” spawns another question, namely “Where is Jesus?” Jesus is in the middle of our evil and suffering. His crucifixion proofs that. He did not ascend to his throne without nail-scarred hands. He still meets us in the midst of evil, and He meets us with the answer, “Here is God.” Elie Wiesel, though not a Christian, answered the question, “Where is God?” from the perspective of Christmas. Wiesel writes, “And I heard a voice within me answer him: Where is He? Here He is—He is hanging here on this gallows” (Wiesel, Night, 62). I would only add, “Here He is—crucified and risen for you.” Where is God? He is in the gospel.
A native of Lubbock, TX, Channing Crisler holds a BS in History from Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene, TX. He received his Master of Divinity in Biblical Languages from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Ft. Worth, TX, and his Ph.D. in New Testament Studies from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY.