Dr. Rowan Williams, in his final Christmas sermon as Archbishop of Canterbury and leader of the Anglican Communion, has reminded followers that the season is not about defending religion, but about encouraging and inspiring others to reconsider who they are.
"Here is something so extraordinary that it interrupts our world; here is something that – like Moses in the story of the Burning Bush – makes you 'turn aside to see', that stops you short. Faith begins in the moment of stopping … the moment when you can't just walk on as you did before," Dr. Williams said at Canterbury Cathedral on Christmas Day.
"Jesus does not come just to answer the questions we think important … he does not come to give us a set of techniques for keeping God happy; and he certainly doesn't come to create a harmlessly eccentric hobby for speculative minds. He comes to make humanity itself new, to create fresh possibilities for being at peace with God," Dr. Williams continued, noting that a decline of church membership and attendance does not mean that Christianity in the U.K. is dead or unable to recover.
Among the hardships the Anglican Communion faced this year, the Church of England leader pointed to the controversial vote on women bishops in November, which narrowly failed to get the crucial majority in needed. It meant that women would have to wait several more years before a new vote on the issue, and left the Church's credibility damaged in the eyes of society according to many. Dr. Williams previously said: "A Church that ordains women as priests but not as bishops is stuck with a real anomaly, one which introduces an unclarity into what we are saying about baptism and about the absorption of the Church in the priestly self-giving of Jesus Christ."
Despite these troubles, however, the Archbishop reminded the faithful that the birth of Christ brings an extraordinary message to the world every year, and presents an opportunity for believers to show the rest of the human race who they are.
"That's the truest heroism and the hardest. It's a foreshadowing of the New Testament invitation: repent and believe and be baptized. Turn round and look where you've never looked before, trust the one who is calling you and drop under the water of his overflowing compassion. Be with him. Join the new human race, re-created in the Spirit of mutual love and delight and service," Dr. Williams concluded.
The Archbishop's full sermon can be found on his official webpage.