A review of “Choose Life: Christmas and Easter Sermons in Canterbury Cathedral” by Bishop Rowan Williams

“Choose Life” is a collection of the Christmas and Easter Sermons of Bishop Rowan Williams, when he was Archbishop of Canterbury from 2002 – 2012.

The book is split into two sections for Christmas and Easter, which makes it ideal for devotional or daily readings in Advent and Lent seasons.  This is what I did, and have found Bishop Williams to be a trusted and wise companion on these journeys.

His essays reference contemporary events, literature, and music to illustrate these events that changed the world.  He is preaching to crowds that he knows will crowd the cathedral pews with attitudes ranging from bored duty, scepticism and hostility, as well as devotion.  He knows he has to challenge and inspire his listeners, challenge them with the concept of God both becoming a vulnerable human baby, and dying a torturous death, and what it has meant and means to our world, and how we can respond.  If we listen to Bishop Williams, really listen, then indifference becomes impossible.  And that’s what he repeatedly asks for, that we stop, and see, that we step off the treadmill for a moment and leave room for reflection and wonder, leave room for God to plant a seed.  He knows that few will leave instant converts, that lasting change is often gradual change, a journey that is lived through a lifetime.  This I how I have come to see spiritual growth, a journey filled with joy and revelation and blessings and grace, yes, but also false starts, reversions, frustrations, doubt, pain, disillusionment.  The cock crows for us as well as Peter, but then time and again we find something that feeds us and sets us back on the path.

To me these essays have been an anchor in choppy seas, the counsel of someone who burns with intelligence, grace and God’s love.

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