The Absent Father

The Railway Children – The Seagull Lowestoft

Yesterday we saw ‘The Railway Children’ at the Seagull Theatre. It was an excellent production. I didn’t see the 1970 Jenny Agutter film; I didn’t read the book… I will read it soon.

Seeing the story for the first time… enjoying good strong acting from local young people in the leading roles… It’s the story of a family with an ‘absent father’.

When I was teaching I saw many families with an absent father. Some single mothers did an excellent job bringing up their children. In other families children missed their dad, absent because of separation, divorce, death, employment…

Christmas time is a joyful time for many – parents, children, extended family. For others remembering the ‘absent father’ – whether for the first year, or several years on – is painful, sad, difficult…

My Dad died 40 years ago; Christmas is one time when I remember my absent father.

In the Christmas narrative Joseph’s active involvement is an important part of the story. He was a ‘present father’ for a number of years after that as Jesus had brothers and sisters… Some years later Joseph was Jesus’ absent father, Mary’s absent husband…

Jesus taught his disciples: ‘Our Father, who art in heaven…’ – praying to a present Father-God.

For many this heavenly Father-God is absent. Last week I was talking to a friend going through tough times: ‘Where’s God in this mess? I can’t see him!’

Many would echo his question… the news – refugees, famine, floods, tragedies… personal stories – sickness, domestic abuse, depression, bereavement… the absent Father-God?

This morning I read: ‘How great is the love the Father has for us, that we should be called children of God!’ I choose to believe in a present Father-God.

The Railway Children ends with the absent father returning: ‘Now the house door opens. Bobbie’s voice calls: ‘Come in, Daddy, come in!’ He goes in and the door is shut…’

Perhaps, for some, Christmas is about re-discovering the absent father, the absent Father.

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