|nativity scene:KT Bruce|
(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.)
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.