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Williams: The Stable Door Is Open

Christmas... gives us a story.  If you go to a carol service, you'll notice that it isn't just about the story of Jesus' birth.  It starts right back at the beginning of human history and tells us that everything started well and then everything went wrong, and we got so tangled in habits and attitudes that trapped us and damaged us that we couldn't get out again.

So the question stares us in the face: Is this your story?  Did you start well and then find yourself snarled up in things that drain your life and energy?  There won't be many people for whom that doesn't ring a bell or two.

And then the story goes on to say something quite strange and surprising.  God steps in to sort it all out.  But He doesn't step in like Superman, He doesn't even send a master plan down from heaven.  He introduces into the situation something completely new a new life; a human baby, helpless and needy like all babies.

And it's by that introducing of something new that change begins to happen.  Like dropping a tiny bit of colouring into a glass of clear water, it starts to affect the whole glassful.

The Christmas story doesn’t try to explain how it works.  It just says: Now that this story, Jesus' story, has started, nothing will be the same again.  So we're not being asked to sign up to a grand theory just to imagine that the world might have changed.  And most of us can manage that for a moment or two.  Christmas lets us hold on to that for just a bit longer.

And it tells us that what matters to us matters to God....

Christmas reminds us of a God who is completely committed to the weakest, who uses power only so that human life can be fuller, more peaceful and generous, who gives us the help we need to make our relationships stable and faithful and who requires of us a complete honesty about ourselves, and gently, steadily, chips away our self-deceptions.  Christmas tells us that our best instincts about human nature and what's needed for a healthy world and society aren't just things we've made up.  They are rooted in the way the whole universe is shaped by God....

We still have this half-buried conviction that church is a place where, at least at this time of year, we ought to be able to feel at home.  We turn up, tired and overwrought, perhaps, still thinking vaguely about what we haven't done and need to do before tomorrow.  And then the story unfolds.  Yes, this is our story, and yes, we can for a moment believe that this birth makes a difference.  Yes, God cares about the kind of world we want to see and his faithful love is the basis of what makes a really liveable life.  And no, we don't have to do anything for this time except take it in.  There are no entrance qualifications.  The door of Jesus' stable is open and anyone can come in and sit down.

- Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, from "The Times on Christmas Eve," 2008.