Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Rowan Williams' Christmas message

courtesy: Anglican Communion News Service:

ACNS 4225 LAMBETH 5 DECEMBER 2006

Archbishop of Canterbury's Christmas Message to the Anglican Communion

Also available in Spanish, French and Arabic, click here.

'He comes the prisoners to release, In Satan's bondage held.' These are words from one of my favourite Advent hymns, 'Hark the glad sound!' And they draw our minds towards an aspect of Christmas that is often neglected because we prefer some of the 'softer' elements in the story. Jesus of Nazareth was born, lived, died and rose because human beings were not free. Since the dawn of human history, men and women had been trapped - even the very best of them - by the heritage of suspicion andalienation towards God and fear of each other. They had been caught upin the great rebellion against God that began even before human history,the revolt of God's creatures against God out of pride andself-assertion.

Satan, the fallen angel, stands as a sign of this primordial tragedy, showing that even the most highly endowed being canbe corrupted by self-assertion. All of the intelligence and spiritual dignity belonging to the angels did not stop Lucifer from the ultimate madness of rejecting the God in whose presence he stood. And this corruption of intelligence and dignity spreads like an epidemicthrough the universe. We know and sense that we are living in somethingless than truth or justice, but don't know how to get out of the trap.The birth and life of Jesus don't first of all change our ideas - theychange what's actually possible for us. They set us free. They set us free by re-establishing our dignity on a new footing.Because God himself, God the Son, has taken our human nature to be his,every human being is touched by that transforming fact.

The epidemic of rebellion is countered by something almost like a benign 'infection',the touch of God communicated to human nature. We still have to chooseto co-operate with God - but he has opened the door for us first byre-creating human nature in Jesus Christ. In the coming year, we celebrate the 200th anniversary of the abolitionof slavery by the Parliament of the United Kingdom. This was achievednot by enlightened and progressive European intellectuals convincedtheoretically of the equality of human beings, but by Christian peoplewho were passionately persuaded of the dignity of lives touched by theincarnate Word of God, people who knew that slavery was both a terribleaffront to the dignity of the slave - and a terrible wound to thespiritual health and integrity of those who owned slaves, and who invirtue of that fact were more deeply enslaved themselves by sin andgreed. Christmas sets us free; and if the memory of William Wilberforce and thegreat campaigners against slavery means anything, it sets us free to setothers free.

It breaks open the prison of blind selfishness, itchallenges the lazy way in which we take for granted the misery ofothers as a background to our lives. So Christmas now should prompt usto ask, 'Whose misery are we taking for granted and not noticing? Whereare today's slaves?' The coming year will have a lot of events thatshould help us look for answers to these questions - though most of usknow some of the answers: child soldiers, victims of sex trafficking,people who have lived for decades in an environment of ceaselessviolence or who have lost their homes or countries through thisviolence. 'He comes the prisoners to release.' Let him come again into this worldthrough our own commitment to 'set all free'; and let us give thanksthat we are set free by Jesus in all he is and says and does, from Bethlehem to Calvary and beyond.

Our glad hosannas, Prince of peace, Thy welcome shall proclaim; And heaven's eternal arches ring With Thy beloved name. Every blessing and happiness to you in this season.

+Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury

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