I led the debate today on Christmas, Christianity, and the Community. It was an interesting discussion and one that I hope will become an annual event.
Please find the text to my speech below:
I beg to move,
That this House has considered Christmas, Christianity and communities.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Dame Maria. The motion is on Christmas, Christianity and communities, and I will speak of all three. “Silver bells, silver bells, it’s Christmas time in the city”—I remember that song playing so often when I was young. My mum loved Christmas; I think that is why I love it so much now. The city streets look so wonderful with all the lights shining brightly. There are Christingle services with church choirs singing carols old and new—what is your favourite, Dame Maria? Slade and Mariah Carey are playing on every radio station, local and national; there are bustling shops; people are rushing about, trying to get a present for a loved one; and Santa’s sleigh is making appearances up and down the country in our villages and towns. Lions Clubs do so much good work, raising money for numerous charities while spreading festive cheer. Father Christmas is in department stores and garden centres. Advent calendars are excitedly opened by kids—and adults—across the country, counting down to this very special day. There are Christmas get-togethers, the sharing of cards, Christmas movies—it truly is the best time for so many of us.
Christmas is obviously getting very commercialised, and as I mentioned in my Easter debate, there will always be those who want to change the name of these festive periods and who want us to forget the real meaning of Christmas. But with 2 billion-plus people across the globe who all know the reason for Christmas, we can be safe in the knowledge that the reason will never be forgotten. To make sure we do not forget, however, I will play my part now and make sure we all know.
We celebrate Christmas because of the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, who was born of a virgin named Mary, in a barn—the most unlikely place for the King of Kings.
Jesus was visited by those deemed the lowest in society—the shepherds—and by the highest, the wise men. He was raised as all boys were at that time. Jesus would have gone through many of the challenges we all face but always in the knowledge of His heavenly father. He had siblings. He learnt a trade from His father, Joseph, a carpenter, but then, in His 30s, He started to spread the word about His reason for being here. He carried out miracles and preached as no one had before or ever will again. He told the world that the only way to be right with the Lord and have eternal life was to believe in Him. He knew His time was limited on this earth and that He would have to make the ultimate sacrifice for all of us. He knew he would be crucified, and He was—crucified so that all those who believe in Him will be forgiven. He made the final sacrifice so that we can be right with our maker, not through words or deeds but simply by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.
What does that mean to us, 2,000 years later? It means simply this: if we repent and ask Christ to come into our lives, He will. That is it: the greatest gift we can ever be given is simply an ask away. It does not matter what you have done in the past. No matter what your thoughts or deeds have been, what addiction you have, whether you are in prison or not, or whether you are wealthy or broke or healthy or sick, just ask Him to come into your life, and He will. You can ask Him alone or with others, in church or not, on your knees or not, eyes closed or not. You just need to ask, and there is never a better time than now.
Do not think that you are not good enough to ask—that is what I thought. I lived for decades without the Lord because I thought I was not good enough to be a Christian. Trust me, you will never not be good enough and nor will I. Forget all your reservations and just ask, and when you do, you will start watching the negatives in your life fall away. Why? Because you will fill all those voids in your life—the ones you have filled with poor choices—with the truth that our Lord, Jesus Christ, loves you. From that moment forward, you will never be alone and will never be without help or hope, because our Lord is always with us.
I have spent much time this year talking about suicide. Two of the many issues related to that are loneliness and the feeling of having no value. With Christ in your life, you are never alone and you can be happy in the knowledge that the Lord values you. What a wonderful gift that is. We really need to spread this message.
The next thing you need to do is to let people know and to seek out your local church. The Church was always at the heart of the community. Sadly, some churches are closing. I often speak about building a strong local economy. If we all buy online, there will be no shops. Likewise, if we do not go to our local churches, they will inevitably close. At Easter, I spoke about the importance of our Christian heritage and about the wonderful chapels and churches that make our towns and villages the places that they are. They are also home to a Christian community that is leaned on by many in society when a tragedy happens. Unless we go to those chapels and churches, they will no doubt close their doors, just like our shops have. So when you have decided to let Christ into your life, if you were not already in church when that happened, go down to your local church and tell them of your decision—they will be delighted to see you. There is a church community out there that is just waiting to welcome you: a community that is full of forgiveness and care, love and hope—a community that needs you.
This Christmas, make that decision to follow Christ and then become part of that community, which can change our society as a whole. We were never meant to be alone. We were meant to be in families and in a community, with faith at the centre of our lives. I hope that all Members agree with that, and I hope that the Minister will do all that he can to promote our communities and our churches.
This wonderful gift of forgiveness and eternal life was given to us at Christmas, and it is a gift that we must share. But we must also engage in the forgiveness part. If there is one thing that we can and should do as Christians, more than anything else, it is to forgive those who have wronged us. This place is meant to reflect society and, although that is often a good thing, sadly it also reflects the bad in society: anger at each other, gossip and lies, selfishness and attempts to get ahead. We can all be guilty of some, if not all of those. If God can send His only son for Him to eventually die on a cross for our sins, we surely must be able to forgive an act or deed against us. If you are upset with mum this Christmas, give her a call; if you are not speaking with a sibling, send them a card; if a neighbour is not currently on your Christmas card list, go and knock on their door; and if an argument with a friend has turned into six months of silence, send them a text.
Let me be the first to practise what I preach. Let me start by apologising to all those I have let down over this past year—families, friends, colleagues, the good people of this country and the Christians who think I should do better or differently. Trust me, this place can make you look like a villain even when you are not, but if I apologise here and now, hopefully you can all forgive me.
I say now that I have already forgiven those who have wronged me, especially those on social media. They call me the most awful things, Dame Maria, but trust me, I forgive them all. Why? Because God has forgiven me. What would Christmas be without forgiveness, friends, family and Christ in the centre of our communities? Happy Christmas, everyone.