Archbishop of Canterbury's 'Pause For Thought' Christmas message

Posted Dec 15, 2011

[Lambeth Palace] The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has spoken on BBC Radio 2’s Pause for Thought programme to reassure listeners that however imperfect or ‘messy’ their Christmasses may be, God will still be there for them.

The full text of the Archbishop’s message is below:

You know how every year you say, ‘This year I’m going to get Christmas sorted out.  I’ll have the cards written by December the first and I’ll work our properly what we can afford and do the presents in time, and I’ll know exactly how many people are coming for meals and when, and…’all the rest of it.  Lurking somewhere in our minds is the idea of the Perfect Christmas (probably with snow, only not the kind that closes down airports and messes up our travel plans).

And every year, mysteriously, all our plans seem to evaporate and it’s the usual mess, with all the last minute panic. There’ll be a good few people concerned just now about what they can afford for a start.

Yet it’s odd in a way, this business of Perfect Christmasses.  The story of the first Christmas is the story of a series of completely unplanned, messy events – a surprise pregnancy, an unexpected journey that’s got to be made, a complete muddle over the hotel accommodation when you get there…Not exactly a perfect holiday.

But it tells us something really vital.  We try to plan all this stuff and stay in charge, and too often (especially with advertisers singing in our ears the whole time) we think that unless we can cook the perfect dinner, plan the perfect wedding, organise the perfect Christmas, we somehow don’t really count or we can’t hold our heads up.

But in the complete mess of the first Christmas, God says, ‘Don’t worry – I’m not going to wait until you’ve got everything sorted out perfectly before I get involved with you.  I’m already there for you in the middle of it all, and if you just let yourself lean on me a bit instead of trying to make yourself and everything around you perfect by your own efforts, everyone will feel a little more of my love flowing’.

I’m never sure whether to wish anyone a peaceful Christmas, because it hardly ever is.  But I can wish you joy in the midst of the mess, and every blessing from the God of ordinary, untidy, surprising things.

The transcript and an audio file of the Archbishop’s message is available here.


Comments (1)

  1. Harry Toye says:

    Having read the article entitled “Have a Messy Christmas says the Archbishop of Canterbury” I am writing to correct the well-intentioned but error-filled article of the Archbishop.

    The Archbishop’s observations are honest, logical, and appear to be obvious. His ‘chaos’ theory appears to be referencing the facts that either the actual Inn was full; or the time a busy time; people on the move; the tax season; the census, the town was busy; all Inns were full; or the location / conditions of the Holy birth, etc.

    However there is no mystery or confusion surrounding the birth of Christ. A mystery is only a mystery to those whom it has not yet been revealed. So in the Spirit of Christmas, here’s an explanation as to why the Birth of Christ (and that’s what Christmas is really about) was the opposite of “chaos” and most certainly far from being “unplanned”.

    Why was there no room at the INN? The reason why there was no room at the Inn is, God did not want room at the Inn. God did not want His Holy Son born there amid drunkenness, sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery, idol worshipers, evil thoughts, etc.

    In short there was SIN in the INN and so it was not a fitting place for the birth of a Holy God. At that time, that was the stable! It would have been nothing for the creator of all things seen and unseen to provide the grandest palace adorned with Gold and Silver but it was not with gold and silver we were to be saved nor would the Lord condone mammon and greed. The humble stable with the animals that bore no sin was the cleanest place for our Saviour to be born.

    However had our Living God wanted, I don’t think there would have been any major problem on His part to provide a room at any inn of His choosing, at any time regardless of how many people were or were not coming for any census or event at that time.

    It was God’s wisdom and predestination alone that His Son Jesus Christ be born on ground that was Holy and without sin in the camp. (No ‘chaos’, no ‘unplanned’ events)

    We have an all powerful God where ALL things are possible and who knows ALL things past, present and future, and He had already made up His mind to have His Son born on ground made Holy by His Presence. God’s planning is ALWAYS perfect and He is a God of order not disorder.

    Wishing the Archbishop and all your readers a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

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