Displaying items by tag: United Kingdom
A number of MPs have added their voice to the growing concern over an upcoming visit to the UK by US evangelist Franklin Graham. Over 5,000 people have signed a petition stating he should not be allowed into the country. They claim he has homophobic and islamophobic views and is ‘likely to promote prejudice and hatred’. The preacher, who is the son of legendary evangelist Billy Graham, is due to speak at Blackpool's Festival of Hope in September. But after recent endorsements of Donald Trump and what has been seen as inflammatory statements about Islam, many are unhappy about the visit. Labour MP Gordon Marsden is calling on the home secretary to refuse him entry into the UK saying, ‘some of his comments are incompatible with what Jesus said in the Bible’. His visit is being supported by many local church leaders.
A BBC review published on 20 December found religious people ‘poorly presented or satirised’ by the corporation, and suggests programming that ‘better reflects the UK’. BBC proposes to include religious themes in popular dramas and soaps on TV and radio, make more documentaries covering religious and ethical issues, and expand its religious affairs team. The ‘Thought for the Day’ slot on Radio 4 will be more closely linked to news items with women and young people. Figures from a wider range of religions will be invited to contribute. Pray that Tony Hall, the BBC’s director general, will remember its religion home page statement: ‘Christianity is the largest religion in the world with over two billion followers. 42 million people in Britain today describe themselves as Christian, and six million are actively practising.’
So it is only three days to go until the big day! It can be so easy to be caught up in the frenetic activity, getting everything ready for those we know, that we can often forget those for whom the Christmas season is difficult. Take a moment to ask God to bring someone to mind for whom that is true.
(Jane Holloway, World Prayer Centre)
Christmas can be financially or emotionally stressful for some families, ‘I married the wrong person’ can be a cry for help when it comes from a person unable to cope with stresses this time of year. There is a battle over marriages today, and the enemy would love nothing more than to destroy families and damage the children caught up in difficult family relationships. We can pray for social workers and councillors looking after the interests of children involved in family breakdowns, separations or court proceedings. Cafcass is an employer of social workers who look after the interests of children involved in family court proceedings. It reported that in November 2017 it received a total of 3,811 new private cases.
The Bishop of Chelmsford has called for a crackdown on internet shopping on Christmas Day, after plans for major sales for that day. Stephen Cottrell said he would support laws to allow only essential services during the Christian festival. Stores such as Amazon, Debenhams, and John Lewis are to launch sales on Christmas Day, slashing prices by up to 66%, and experts predict millions will spend record amounts online. The Bishop said that shopping should not tempt people away from precious time with family and friends over Christmas, and companies should voluntarily postpone their sales. But he added, ‘How you shut down the internet for a day I don’t know, but if anyone has an idea I would certainly back it in the House of Lords.’ In further erosion of Christianity, a survey has found, nearly a third of primary schools have dropped or watered down traditional nativity plays, because of fears of offending non-Christians or non-believers. See the next article.
The approach to Christmas is a perfect time to reflect upon the true nature of the babe of Bethlehem. It is fashionable these days, at least in some circles, to downplay doctrinal distinctions and credal formulations when discussing Christ. Some think it is more inclusive to leave things rather loose and free; that a rigid definition of the Prince of Peace could offend people. But does a watered-down Christ and a warm and fuzzy definition of Jesus match what Scripture reveals concerning the Son of God? In the early centuries of Christianity believers put together written summaries of the Christian faith. The Apostles' Creed and the Nicene Creed declare among other things that Jesus ‘was conceived by the Holy Spirit’ and was ‘born of the Virgin Mary’ (Apostles' Creed); and Jesus is ‘very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made’ (Nicene Creed).
People say Christmas is all about the children - and for Christians, one child in particular. But this year many children are faring badly in villages, towns and cities. Granada ITV news has been reporting on child poverty. Primary school staff spoke of hungry children, and parents collapsing in the school hall because they had not eaten for days so that their children could eat. Those parents were invited into the breakfast club for cereal and toast, and then referred to a foodbank. Other parents are being allowed to charge their phones and wash children’s clothes in the school, because they have no electricity or hot water at home. Coats and shoes are given to children who haven’t got them. The schools reported that they had seen a ‘noticeable rise’ in the numbers of working families who were in this kind of poverty. Mrs May was recently challenged in parliament about 128,000 children being homeless this Christmas.
Hundreds of victims of domestic abuse are being turned away from refuges in Wales due to lack of space. As many as 500 women, children and men were turned away in 2016-17, half the time because units were full. Welsh Women's Aid said there had been a 5% funding cut in specialist services for violence against women. There are fears that the loss of a protected Welsh government grant could see more refuges close (already 34 have done so since 2010). Fleeing violence and finding refuge is not just a welsh challenge. Across the UK one-third of all referrals to refuges are turned away, according to Women’s Aid; others say two out of three women are turned away. Specialist domestic violence services for black and ethnic minority women and women with disabilities have borne the brunt of the cuts. See also
In a world of instant results, it’s good to remind ourselves that the journey of faith is a long one for most people. Let’s make a decision today that, ‘short time or long’, we will use all the opportunities that Christmas brings to care, invite and pray for those we know to come to know Jesus.
(Mark Greenwood, National Evangelist for Elim Churches, HOPE Leadership Team)
This week, as we look forward to Christmas, we remember our Saviour who was born in a stable to parents who were forced to flee their home country. This week in the United Kingdom there are an estimated 118,995 refugees who were born on a different continent and forced to flee their home country. They are experiencing uncertainty about their future, and many have no knowledge of the true meaning of Christmas. In the festive buzz leading up to the 25th, we can pray that many will have divine appointments with Christ, and will hear about and believe in the Father who loved them so much he sent His Son to earth just for them. May these ‘foreigners’ living in an unfamiliar culture find hope and a future living in God’s family, growing and flourishing as Jesus leads them.