Justin Welby sermon: Covid makes all of us face unpredictability | Justin Welby

Everyone in society, from Cabinet ministers to rough sleepers, has faced “uncertainty, uncontrollability and unpredictability” during the Covid pandemic, the archbishop of Canterbury is expected to say in his Christmas sermon.

Justin Welby, who will lead the Christmas Day service at Canterbury Cathedral, will add that the past 22 months has also shown people’s capacity for compassion and generosity.

In particular, he is expected to praise those who have rescued refugees crossing the Channel to reach the UK, and volunteers who have welcomed and cared for people seeking a new life.

He will tell the congregation: “As a nation we have been … faced collectively as never before with our limits – our fragility, the contingency of life and our mortality. Millions have faced suffering and loss.

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“We all face uncertainty, uncontrollability and unpredictability, from Sage and Cabinet to each one of us, from huge companies to those sleeping rough.

But, he will add: “There is no doubting our human capacity to solve problems and show great kindness. The volunteers welcoming and caring for refugees arriving on the beaches so close to this cathedral are amazing people, especially the crews of the RNLI and the other rescuers such as the Border Patrol cutters’ crews.

“Volunteers today in food banks and other places of comfort help show this country at its best, a beautiful sign of compassion, of generosity, of living out the saying ‘it’s not about me’.”

The Christmas story, he will say, “shows us how we must treat those who are unlike us, who have far less than us, who have lived with the devastating limits of war and national tragedy – those who risk everything to arrive on the beaches, who suffer want and poor housing, little food, endless worry, health injustice, all over this, our country.”

People have been wondering for months whether Christmas would be “saved” amid the continuing pandemic and the Omicron variant of Covid, he will say. “But let’s get this straight – it’s not we who save Christmas, it’s Christmas that saves us. We cannot save ourselves. But God can – the gift of salvation is not just offered to some people, but to all,” the archbishop is expected to say.

Some churches cancelled Christmas Eve and carol services this year amid worries about Covid infections, despite there being no government restrictions on indoor gatherings.

The Church of England launched its first virtual reality carol service aimed at people unable or unwilling to attend a service in person.