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Christmas Eve

The Birth of Jesus by Archbishop Justin Welby

This Christmas I will be remembering the words of the famous hymn

'What can I give Him, Poor as I

If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb

If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part,

Yet what I can I give Him: Give my heart.'

The heart is a funny thing. Of course, it's the organ that pumps blood around our bodies, keeping us alive. But it's come to mean far more to us. The heart means our very core, our being. It's at once deeply human and visceral, yet metaphorical and transcendent. It anchors us to our mortality, but it also lifts us to our creativity, our inspiration, the relationships that we form and the people we love.

The heart is where humanity seems to meet divinity.

Reading: Matthew 1:18-23

Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way... an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said ‘Joseph, son of David do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.’ All this took place to fulfil what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: 'Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel: which means, 'God is with us.'


At Christmas, God himself becomes human. His real, living heart beats; as a frail child in a cold manger he takes his first breaths on this earth. And he takes on this very human heart because of his Love for you. Having a heart means experiencing heartbreak: it means knowing pain and sorrow. But it also means joy, love, hope and the promise of life. Most of all it means relationship. In becoming human, God showed his heart isn't impervious to our lives. God doesn't watch us coldly from afar; he is here this Christmas, with us.

We often dress Christmas up, adding all the trimmings: a tree, presents, lights, food and fun. These things are wonderful, but they are not the heart of Christmas. The only thing that makes Christmas perfect is Jesus, who sees, loves, and welcomes all. The only thing we need to give him – and each other – is our hearts, our very own selves.

Wherever and whoever you are, you too are welcome and invited this Christmas, to worship the child, the God whose heart beats for you.

Where might you find space and stillness in the coming days of Christmas to listen for the heartbeat of God’s love?

This reflection was written by Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury

In the bleak mid-winter

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