الأحد , يونيو 14 2020

Christmas 'not a fairytale'

Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev Justin WelbyThe Most Reverend Justin Welby will deliver his second Christmas sermon on Thursday

Fairytale endings are not a reflection of the true spirit of Christmas, the Archbishop of Canterbury is to say.

In his Christmas Day sermon, the Most Rev Justin Welby will allude to the World War One battlefield truce between German and British troops in 1914.

The archbishop will remind Canterbury Cathedral the truce was a “one-day wonder” and the war continued with the same severity the next day.

But he will say it does illustrate something of the “heart of Christmas”.

The story of truce – when soldiers on both sides stopped fighting and played football in no-man’s land on the Western front – has been highlighted in several other Christmas messages this year. It has also appeared in advertisements.

During the service at Canterbury Cathedral, which starts at 1100 GMT, the Archbishop of Canterbury is expected to say: “At Christmas 1914, soldiers took the risk, crossed a battleline and kindled an evening of friendship and football.

“The truce illustrates something of the heart of Christmas, whereby God sends his Son, that vulnerable sign of peace, to a weary war-torn world.”

‘Not fictional’

But he is expected to say the “problem” with the way it is told now is it “seems to end with a ‘happy ever after’.”

“Of course we like Christmas stories with happy endings: Singing carols, swapping photos, shaking hands, sharing chocolate, but the following day the war continued with the same severity.

“That is not the world in which we live, truces are rare.”

The archbishop is expected to urge worshippers not to reduce the story of Christmas to something “utterly remote, about lives entirely different, fictional, naive, tidy”.

“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’.”

Cardinal Vincent NicholsCardinal Vincent Nichols condemned the “barbaric actions” of Islamic State militants

Separately, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, leader of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, told the congregation at midnight Mass in Westminster Cathedral that Jesus taught compassion for the hungry and displaced.

He said: “Well-known facts cease to be abstract, distant problems become the story of our brothers and sisters, our own flesh and blood. They call out to us for recognition and assistance.”

Cardinal Nichols told BBC religious affairs correspondent Caroline Wyatt it was important to pray for those in Syria and Iraq suffering persecution by Islamic State militants – Christians and others.

He said: “We will pray for them and not just for the Christians but everyone who has suffered at the hands of those extremists. Whose actions are barbaric, whose actions we condemn.

“And anyone who acts in that way and claims to do so in the name of god. That is blasphemous and that’s a real slur on true faith that all the great religions share.”

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