FIGURES from across the public spectrum, from the TV gardener Alan Titchmarsh to Hea Woo, a Christian imprisoned for her faith in a labour camp in North Korea, have contributed their reflections on Christmas to an anthology gathered by the Archbishop of Canterbury.
The stories in In This Light: Thoughts for Christmas (published on 1 November by HarperCollins at £10.99) move from hard times in prisons and refugee camps to observations on the virtues of gentleness by the actress and comedian Miranda Hart. Contributors include the former United States Secretary of State John F. Kerry; the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan; the ITN newsreader Julie Etchingham; and the triple Olympic gold-medal oarsman Pete Reed.
Perhaps most surprising, given the Archbishop’s hostile views on the activities of internet giants, the book opens with the views of Google’s European president, Matt Brittin, who talks about how new technology can be used to bring people together at Christmas.
The Archbishop explains how he was impressed by the company’s London staff when he was invited to speak to them. “They are faced with the increasingly complex challenge of preserving freedom of speech and access to information, while impeding those with malicious intent,” he writes.
“Google recognise their role in this and are not perfect (we discussed that, too), but the relentless maze of issues created by our existence online is not just for the tech giants to confront. We each need to join the conversation in addressing what is perhaps the greatest challenge of the century: how to manage the internet.”
The Archbishop goes on to express gratitude to his contributors for “expressing their own individual and particular view of the light they see in our world, especially at Christmas. As you will quickly see, they are an eclectic bunch — believers and sceptics, priests, teachers and artists — each of whom has shaped how I think and work.
“Becoming Archbishop has given me untold privileges, one of which has been to meet and spend time with these wise friends and colleagues. Each of them has enriched my life and work, and this book fulfils my hope to share some of their words with you.”
He concludes: “It is quite easy to assume that Christmas is to be survived rather than enjoyed. But I am not in the least cynical, because every year there is something, as I look back over the previous twelve months, which speaks to me of the miracle of God coming to be with us.”