Archbishop’s Christmas sermon reflects on deceitfulness of ‘populist leaders’
Justin Welby’s message echoed that of Pope Francis, who focused on Jesus’s humble beginnings amid poverty and conflict.
The Archbishop of Canterbury has used his Christmas Day sermon to reflect on the terrorist atrocities and deceitfulness of “populist leaders” witnessed in 2017.
The Most Rev Justin Welby told worshippers at Canterbury Cathedral that much could be learnt from the Nativity story, where Jesus is “power seen in humility”.
Preaching at the Sung Eucharist service, he made what will be interpreted by some as a jibe at US President Donald Trump by contrasting the son of God with “populist leaders that deceive” their people.
And in an echo of Pope Francis’s address at Christmas Eve Mass in the Vatican, the Archbishop drew a parallel between the journey of Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem and the refugee crisis.
He told the congregation: “The nature of those who have power is to seek to hold on to it.
“In 2017 we have seen around the world tyrannical leaders that enslave their peoples, populist leaders that deceive them, corrupt leaders that rob them, even simply democratic, well-intentioned leaders of many parties and countries who are normal, fallible human beings.
“We have experienced across our country terrorism that kills the innocent, claiming that it is the path to freedom in God.
“The nature of God who has all power, and from whom all power comes, is to lay it aside for love’s sake and thus without fear, force or manipulation to offer true freedom for every human being.”
The Archbishop this year publicly spoke out against Mr Trump when he shared videos from far-right group Britain First via Twitter.
He said at the time: “It is deeply disturbing that the president of the United States has chosen to amplify the voice of far-right extremists.”
Earlier on Monday morning the Church of England’s most senior cleric gave his Christmas message a modern twist by publishing extracts in a Twitter thread, complete with a hashtag.
1. You might be wondering why Christians today are celebrating the birth of Jesus to young, poor parents in a war-torn country ruled by an infant-slaughtering, family-murdering psychopath... read on.— Archbishop of Canterbury (@JustinWelby) December 25, 2017
2. We’re celebrating because this helpless baby, born in the lowest place, is the God who has brought and continues to bring more freedom than all earth’s most powerful leaders.— Archbishop of Canterbury (@JustinWelby) December 25, 2017
3. Look into that manger. God has all power - yet he lays that power aside for love’s sake. And so without fear, force or manipulation he offers true freedom for every human being.— Archbishop of Canterbury (@JustinWelby) December 25, 2017
4. Look into that manger and see Jesus: a divine-human leader who doesn’t subdue or diminish His followers. He enables them to be all that a human being can be - to be truly liberated.— Archbishop of Canterbury (@JustinWelby) December 25, 2017
5. This light of truth and love needed witnesses then, and it needs them today. That’s the calling of every Christian, in everything we do and say.— Archbishop of Canterbury (@JustinWelby) December 25, 2017
6. That’s why we’re celebrating today. Because Christ is born - and we’re all invited to share in the life and freedom he brings. And that’s why I truly wish you all a very Merry Christmas. #GodWithUs— Archbishop of Canterbury (@JustinWelby) December 25, 2017
Across the globe, the Pope put the migrant crisis at the heart of his festive reflections, saying that the story of the holy birth had particular relevance as millions of people were “driven from their land”.
The Archbishop struck a similar note during his sermon, saying: “We are drawn to stories of freedom and purpose.
“In Star Wars an abandoned orphan on a desert planet turns into a knight leading the struggle for freedom.
“Platform nine and three quarters takes Harry Potter into a world of magic and purpose.
“Not so in the gospel stories, even those of Christmas. Yes, the shepherds see angels. Yes, Mary and Joseph have dreams and are chosen as special people.
“Yet after the moments of miracles life goes on almost as before – the shepherds return to their sheep, Joseph settles back as a carpenter, Mary raises children.
“They flee as refugees, like over 60 million people today.
“Yet their story is the beginning of ours, it is an invitation to lives of freedom, found through God’s freely offered love.”