One of the many school carol services taking place in the Cathedral this week has some very short prayers for the children to say. These are the prayers:

'Joseph and Mary travelled to Bethlehem where Jesus was born. Be with all young children and those who look after them.'

'Jesus was born in the stable because there was no room in the inn. Be with all who are homeless.'

'The shepherds listened to the angels who sang a song of peace on earth. Give peace to our world today.'

'The holy family left their land to live in a foreign country. Be with all refugees today.'

These prayers, short enough and simple enough for everyone to understand, tell us a great deal about the Christmas story. They remind us that the Christmas story is not the sort of story that begins 'once upon a time' and ends 'and they all lived happily ever after'. It's a story that connects to the world we live in today. A world in which many children and other vulnerable people are exploited and abused. A world in which many people have nowhere to live. A world in which there are conflicts of many kinds, political unrest, oppression. And a world in which people are displaced by war or famine from their homelands, desperately seeking a country that will take them in.

The Christmas story tells us that Jesus, Mary and Joseph, experienced all this. And the Christian faith, behind the Christmas story, tells us that God himself experienced all this in the human life of Jesus. God was 'made flesh and dwelt among us'. That is the startling and triumphant claim of Christianity.That is what makes me a Christian. Because of a homeless child in Bethlehem.

Peter Atkinson, Dean of Worcester