Last night I was privileged to attend the Lambeth Palace Guest Carol Service, which was a beautiful reflective Christmas celebration. Archbishop Justin asked me to share a thought for the occasion, which my sister, Susannah, read delightfully; I was so proud of her.
Here is the piece I wrote which she read:
‘Stories have always been a large part of my life; stories I have grown up listening to, stories my imagination has inhabited, and latterly stories I have written. This year I have had the privilege of sharing my story with a wider audience, and in turn have been rewarded with hearing the stories others have shared with me.
When we share our stories, we give an insight not just to the polished outside appearance, but also a sense of the struggles and difficulties on the way. Through them we can learn from each other, what binds our common humanity and the differences that make us all unique.
Christmas gives us a chance to look back over the year, and as I look back over my extra-ordinary year, it is not so much the big events that I look back and cherish, but the people who have shared some of their story with me. People like Anne, who wrote to me and said that although she had been very involved in church, she had lost her faith 17 years ago when her father died. After reading my description of the Garden, Anne realised that God is there, helping and guiding her every day. She ended her letter ‘thank you for sharing your faith and restoring mine’. It is humbling that God uses our stories in this way.
Then there was Mya who is non-verbal and, like me a few years ago, labelled with Profound and Multiple Learning Difficulties. Mya communicates with a blink for yes and a stare for no. As Mya’s mother read my story to her, she would sigh at the common misperceptions we both experience. When her mother had finished she asked Mya if she would like to learn to read and write. Her affirming blinks were rapid and enthusiastic. Now, Mya has started a literacy journey of her own. Recently she spelled out ‘I can’.
And at Christmas time we celebrate the greatest story of all. God the author also became God the character as Jesus came to join our story. He entered the mess and complication, participating in our common humanity and demonstrating a radically different way to live – God’s loving way.
But the story didn’t end 2000 years ago, and it doesn’t end every year when the decorations come down. When we invite Jesus to share our story, our lives become woven with the greatest story of all.’