The Archbishop was regrettably not able to deliver it at Canterbury Cathedral this morning due to suffering from a severe cold.
The Christmas story could be told simply with a happy ending where the gospel reading ended. ”˜Shepherds are cold, shepherds see angels, shepherds head into town and see baby, and shepherds disappear into sunrise, happy’. If we end there, Christmas removes us from reality. Christmas becomes something utterly remote, about lives entirely different, fictional, naÃ¯ve, tidy. That’s not Christmas. Jesus came to the reality of this world to transform that reality – not to take us into some fantasy kind of ”˜happy ever after’ but to ”˜Good News of great joy for all people.’
It is Good News precisely because God addresses the world as it is. Isaiah speaks of warriors and garments rolled in blood, of yokes on people’s shoulders, of oppression. We know that story; it is the lived reality of so many suffering today. Yet Isaiah announces the news of God bringing light, joy, and exultation, through a child!
It is ”˜good news of great joy’ because a helpless baby (who is God) becomes the one who changes this world decisively. Differently to any other figure in human history Jesus breaks in, not to help us escape, but to transform and take hold of our past, our present and our future. This baby brings the promise of forgiveness, the certainty of love and the hope of peace.