A Christmas message

Happy Christmas! I’ve got three big tasks this Christmas.

First, my daughter’s present. Ellie wrote to Father Christmas with her present wish list.

The good news was Santa collected her letter. And he ate the mince pie! Although he did leave some tell-tale crumbs.

The bad news is I now have to get Santa to bring three live unicorns.

It’s my own fault – I bought Ellie this snow globe unicorn last year. But I’m not sure where to start looking for a live unicorn. So I’m thinking of ringing the Prime Minister. Apparently Mr Johnson does a good line in unicorns.

But my second task is easier. To celebrate my own birthday. I wasn’t born in a stable – my mum had me, at home, at ten past eight Christmas morning 1965.

Apparently my dad cooked the Christmas lunch. And my mum ate seconds. And afterwards, they all watched the Queen’s Speech – her Majesty’s Christmas message.

It’s been broadcast in the afternoon for a few decades now. And in case you didn’t know, this year – like last year – it’s on at 3pm.

My third task is the most important however.

It’s to celebrate the real message of Christmas.

As a Christian, for me, it’s all about hope. And joy. And love. What could possibly represent hope, joy and love better – than a new born baby.

When I held my first child, in the crook of my arm in Kingston Hospital, just minutes after he’d been born, that was the first time I really understood how my own father and mother must have loved me.

So you don’t actually have to believe in Jesus to recognise that for Christians, Christmas has a deep, profound meaning.

It’s why we light candles.

It’s why we remember that even in those dark days – when King Herod was willing to slaughter thousands of new born babies just to hold onto power, and forced the Holy Family to become refugees and asylum seekers – even then, hope, joy and love were possible.

Jesus went on to teach – and to teach ideas and values that still speak powerfully to us today.

Perhaps my favourite is this. “Love Thy Neighbour As Thyself”

So this Christmas – let’s have hope. And joy. And love.

And let’s love all our neighbours. Even those who believe in unicorns.

* Ed Davey is the MP for Kingston & Surbiton and Leader of the Liberal Democrats

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40 Comments

  • Unicorns? Here are some elephants
    https://www.nationthailand.com/news/30379750?utm_source=category&utm_medium=internal_referral
    Suk san wan Christmas (Merry Christmas)

  • Steve Trevethan 24th Dec '19 - 12:55pm

    Emphasising the humanity of Chistmas is much to be commended.
    Perhaps the conveying, directly and/or indirect message that Father Christmas actually delivers presents to trusting young children is not.
    A child receiving a phantasy message from someone whom they trust is likely to result in a so damaging “double bind”for the child.
    Alas, ” those dark days” are not in the past. Needless children’s deaths and hungers are still still being imposed by rulers through armed conflicts, sanctions and economic policies.
    A Merryish Christmas to us all!

  • Sopwith Morley 24th Dec '19 - 1:01pm

    @ Steve Trevethan

    ” Perhaps the conveying, directly and/or indirect message that Father Christmas actually delivers presents to trusting young children is not.”

    Bah humbug, bah humbug!!!

  • @ Steve Trevethan
    Good Lord!
    The message is Peace on Earth and Goodwill to all men and women.
    Manfarang aka Santa Claus

  • Rodney Watts 24th Dec '19 - 8:53pm

    Well said Ed and for reminding us of what Christmas is all about. My roots are Jewish but I try to follow the teachings of Yeshua Ha Notzri (Jesus of Nazareth). “Love your neighbour as yourself” should also be familiar to all Jews as an important commandment found in the Torah (Leviticus 19 :18) Sadly the Jewish State of Israel fails miserably to obey that commandment along with other Tanakh (Old Testament) teachings.

  • Richard Underhill 25th Dec '19 - 9:08am

    Our thanks to the staff at Openreach who corrected an external fault overnight.

  • Francis Jakeman 25th Dec '19 - 9:41pm

    Thanks Ed for sharing the hope, joy and love you find through your faith in Jesus. To know that there are Christians in the leadership of our party is a great encouragement to me, especially after Tim Farron’s experience. The more we can draw on the wonder of God becoming one like us, the more hope, joy and love we will be able to offer our neighbours.

  • Malcolm Todd 26th Dec '19 - 12:58am

    Such contempt for those who believe in unicorns… from one who believes in sky fairies.

  • Richard Underhill 27th Dec '19 - 8:07am

    Jesus was a refugee, although he predated the UNHCR,
    (basic training for asylum caseworkers)
    He crossed into Egypt with a well founded fear of persecution, although still a child.

  • Richard Underhill 27th Dec '19 - 8:27am

    Matthew chapter 2 verses 13 -23, death of Herod, return to Israel, settled in Nazareth.

  • Christmas is all about celebrating the days getting lighter again after the 21st its nothing to do with Jesus, he was not born at this time of year – Christianity hijacked an old Pagan festival to ease its acceptance by the population. As a person of no religion, I did not like the way Tim Farron was treated for being Christian (his religion did not matter), but I m also disappointed to read Ed’s message – we didnt need all that Christian stuff, a few lines would have done, religion should be kept out of Politics and this came across like a mini sermon to me.

  • Alison Crawford 28th Dec '19 - 4:53pm

    @JH So sorry to see you like to bash the Christians. I thought Lib Dems were not in the business of bashing anyone. Well done Ed (and Richard Underhill) for speaking your mind.

  • @JH Jesus, if he even existed, almost certainly wasn’t born in Bethlehem either. The whole story is a concoction to support Jewish prophesy about the birthplace of the messiah. Just think about the disruption, and what would be the point, of a census that required everyone to return to their original birthplace to be counted? And there’s no record of it, or anything like it in any other roman-administered region.

    As for killing the male newborns… I’m sure I’ve read that the latest excuse (by theists) for THAT not appearing in the historical record was that it was over a very specific area, perhaps only a few dozens… hardly a need to flee to Egypt.

  • Paul Barker 28th Dec '19 - 7:30pm

    The question of which prejudices are acceptable at any time is largely a matter of fashion, both Christianity & Judaism are massively Unfashionable in White, Metropolitan & “Lefty” circles so naked prejudice is quite OK.
    Thank God that hardly anyone will be reading this stuff.

  • Peter Watson 28th Dec '19 - 9:19pm

    @Alison Crawford “I thought Lib Dems were not in the business of bashing anyone.”
    Long before the advent of Brexiteers, Christians were the group that Lib Dems were happy to bash here on LDV (though not other faiths).

  • Alison Crawford – You obviously have not read what I wrote PROPERLY- I m not bashing anyone or anything, I like Christmas I just pointed out that it really has nothing to do with Christianity, its a Pagan festival celebrating the return of lighter evenings. I also pointed out that I was unhappy about the way Tim Farron was treated because of his Christian faith whilst also pointing out that I thought Ed’s message was too heavily Christian. So to confirm, for people who dont bother to read and digest things properly, I think people of all religions and none should be treated EQUALLY.

  • Antony_H – I think Its a matter of fact that he did exist but yes, we could spend years debating how true all the stuff written by people (many of who didnt know him) in the 2000 years since his death is or isnt, but that was not my intention. I just pointed out some facts about the origins of Christmas. As far as I m aware the Jewish religion says that the messiah has not come yet, so I dont think “The whole story is a concoction to support Jewish prophesy about the birthplace of the messiah” is correct, because I do not think that they believe that he is the messiah.

    Paul Barker – if it were not so worrying, it would be laughable that you think that my first post in this discussion was in any way “prejudice”. Nothing about it was, unless you think non Christians should want to hear the leader of their party going on about his religion more than he should. We are a centre party, so this is not a “lefty” circle and this is a political site, not a religious one !

  • Peter Watson – as I ve said I have not “bashed” anyone.

    As a non-religious person who was brought up in the UK, I had Christianity rammed down my throat from the age of 5 all the way to 16 at school (4 schools, 2 state, 2 private), where l was brainwashed with prayers, hymns, “religious studies” (which should have actually been called “Christian studies” as that was all that was taught) and loads of other stuff that I had no desire to be indoctrinated with from such a young, or indeed any, age. I am not unique – most of the population went through this sort of experience in their childhoods so this and the fact that its the most common religion in this country, is why many people feel they can criticise it more than they can other religions. This has nothing to do with “fashion”, being “lefty” (although as I said this is a “centry” site), or being “metropolitan” and it most certainly is not “predjudice”t is because most people in this country are (minor) victims of Christianity being forced upon them in school.

    Friends of mine, one of whom went to a Catholic school (even though they are not Catholic), tried, in vain to find a non religious school for their child. None exist, at least not within 50 miles of their home. In this day and age they are forced to have their child indoctrinated with a religion neither of them believe in.

    What is needed is the total removal of ALL “religious studies” (except the equal study of all religions) from ALL schools asap.

  • Yousuf Farah 29th Dec '19 - 6:12am

    @Peter Watson
    And you right-wingers and Labour trolls have been attacking every other religion (especially Islam), except Christianity, on here and everywhere else for since as far as any one can remember. Hypocrisy much?

  • Innocent Bystander 29th Dec '19 - 10:05am

    Yousuf,
    Islam is definitely not attacked in the British media at all. Journalists are terrified of the charge of Islamophobia.
    Charlie Hebdo casts a long shadow.
    Only Christianity is mocked.

  • Sopwith Morley 29th Dec '19 - 10:18am

    Jesus exists/existed for those who need him to exist, just as Mohammed exists/existed for those who need him to exist

    All religious belief is anchored in the need of individuals but especially groups to have an emotional crutch to call on when events are out of their control either economically or emotionally. It is no longer the only crutch available, and not even the most important in most peoples lives, and although the need for that emotional crutch via a religion is fading from people lives, and will be largely gone in a generation of two, its values which are inextricably linked to basic human values and decency iwill survive in some form. It will of course survive in Islam as long as religious adherence is enforced by its preferred medieval method of fear and oppression.

    Religion is benign, it is the fruitcakes who chose to interpret it to mirror their prejudice and world view that are the problem, and sadly one of them is born probably every minute to continue the work.

  • Peter Watson 29th Dec '19 - 10:19am

    @Yousuf Farah
    If you can find something I’ve said or done that attacks any religion then I will apologise, otherwise I strongly object to what reads as a very personal attack on me. I try to be very sensitive to religious beliefs even though I don’t share them.
    I’m neither a right-winger nor a Labour troll (some might dispute the latter but I did use to be a Lib Dem member and voter and I keep coming back here to see if it’s a party I could return to), and as very much an agnostic when it comes to religious faith I’m simply pointing out that one can go back through LibDemVoice threads and find posts by Lib Dems which ridicule Christian faith. I think there was quite a lot of this towards the end of Tim Farron’s leadership (“sin-gate”), but in this thread I would point to Malcolm Todd’s post as an example (but not JH).
    However, Lib Dems here never seem to direct those same comments towards other faiths, even when exactly the same point might be relevant.
    I think Paul Barker touches on reasons for this, as does your response which points to many years of persecution of people of other faiths in this country (though in recent decades I feel this is generally a horrible “side-effect” of horrible racism rather than because of genuine theological differences), which Lib Dems would rightly condemn.

  • cont . . .

    Peter Watson – as I ve said I have not “bashed” anyone.

    As a non-religious person who was brought up in the UK, I had Christianity rammed down my throat from the age of 5 all the way to 16 at school (4 schools, 2 state, 2 private), where l was brainwashed with prayers, hymns, “religious studies” (which should have actually been called “Christian studies” as that was all that was taught) and loads of other stuff that I had no desire to be indoctrinated with from such a young, or indeed any, age. I am not unique – most of the population went through this sort of experience in their childhoods so this and the fact that its the most common religion in this country, is why many people feel they can criticise it more than they can other religions. This has nothing to do with “fashion”, being “lefty” (although as I said this is a “centry” site), or being “metropolitan” and it most certainly is not “predjudice”t is because most people in this country are (minor) victims of Christianity being forced upon them in school.

    Friends of mine, one of whom went to a Catholic school (even though they are not Catholic), tried, in vain to find a non religious school for their child. None exist, at least not within 50 miles of their home. In this day and age they are forced to have their child indoctrinated with a religion neither of them believe in.

    What is needed is the total removal of ALL “religious studies” (except the equal study of all religions) from ALL schools asap.

  • Censuses were undertaken in the Roman Empire. They would not have been anything like the modern census (which dates from 1841 in the UK). They would have been lists of free men (non-slaves) eligible for taxation or being forced to join the army, and they would have been compiled by magistrates and landowners probably based on local knowledge. Very little documentation survives. The Third Bronze Plate of Botorrita, which is actually pre-Roman, is probably a tax roll. The tribe or home village is stated next to the name on that document, but that does not mean that individuals had to return to those locations to be enumerated. The headnote is unreadable, so we may never know.

  • Peter Watson 29th Dec '19 - 7:58pm

    @JH “the fact that its the most common religion in this country, is why many people feel they can criticise it more than they can other religions”
    I tend to agree. It seems that in liberal circles in the UK, Christianity in general and Anglicanism & Catholicism in particular is seen as part of the establishment (quite literally in one case) so poking fun is acceptable and rebellious but poking fun at other faiths is seen as unacceptable and bullying. I feel that this belittles the persecution and cruelty that Christians endure in some parts of the world in common with other religions. I think that people of all religious faiths or those of us with none should be treated with the same respect. Ultimately it’s what we say and do that matters. If somebody’s interpretation of their religion makes them sexist or racist or homophobic then they should be criticised for the sexism or the racism or the homophobia. Equally, If somebody’s belief in angels, creationism or tree spirits makes them love their neighbour or protect the environment and the planet then they should be praised for that.
    If we want to debate the theology and the science and the history then that should be done politely with respect and tolerance, preferably over a pint or a nice cup of tea.

  • Peter Watson – I generally agree with your previous post, its interesting though, that you dont comment on my other point, which I think is the main reason why people in this country feel they can criticise Christianity – the fact that most of us are indoctrinated with it from 5 (or younger) onwards. A friend of mine who was bought up in Iran has a similar attitude towards Islam which he was indoctrinated with from a young age, this involved beating, as it used to a lot in this country with Christianity.

  • The reasons for my commenting on Christianity in the thread for specific article are that any commenting on any other religion would be off-topic, compared to the subject, and actual content, of the article.

    My opinion of Edward Davey has gone down as a result of it, not because he is a Christian, but because he seems to believe that it is literally true, however implausible or nonsensical (or even contradictory) the accounts are in the bible, not that he believes that Jesus was the son of god.

    My opinions of ALL theist beliefs are low, to a greater or lesser extent, being more of a Dawkinsite myself, but I view Christianity as amongst the least dangerous of the major religions, having being largely ‘tamed’ since the enlightenment.

    And OF COURSE I wouldn’t dare comment adversely on SOME other religions: Doing so can in extremis get you killed, and at the very least accused of a made-up ‘phobia’ which is rapidly being escalated into a criminal offense.

  • Antony-H
    Concerning the Nativity read the Gospel of Mark.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 30th Dec '19 - 10:43am

    Some of the comments on this thread seem insensitive. Its true that probably most people these days -including many Christians – do not believe every detail of the Christmas story to be literally true. But this beautiful and moving story is full of symbolism, which is why it still has a powerful message today, whether or not we believe the historical details to be true.

  • @ Catherine Jane Crosland Completely agree with you, Catherine. There’s a haughty self regarding superiority about some of it. Far be it from me to quote the Spectator, but one contributor here would do well to read the following :

    “Richard Dawkins has lost: meet the new new atheists”. https://www.spectator.co.uk › Features
    13 Apr 2013 – … lost: meet the new new atheists. Secular humanism is recovering from its Dawkinsite phase – and beginning a more interesting conversation. “Richard Dawkins is now seen by many, even many non-believers, as a joke figure, shaking his fist at sky fairies. He’s the Mary Whitehouse of our day.”

  • Atheism, like Christianity, covers a wide spectrum of understandings. I’m afraid that Richard Dawkins is the mirror image of a Christian literalist. A really thoughtful book about atheism is the atheist philosopher John Gray’s ‘Seven Types of Atheism’ which dismisses Dawkins’ writing on religion as not worthy of serious discussion.

    As a Christian and a Liberal Democrat, I find some of the comments on this thread to be somewhat unnecessarily aggressive towards Christianity. Respectful engagement is usually more enlightening.

  • Peter Watson 30th Dec '19 - 12:40pm

    @JH “you dont comment on my other point … the fact that most of us are indoctrinated with it from 5 (or younger) onwards”
    Yes, I skipped over that one 🙂 To be honest, I think that’s overstating it a bit. As far as I can tell, for most people the result of such “indoctrination” simply means that they have a favourite Christmas carol and a passing familiarity with a couple of parables.

  • Peter Watson 30th Dec '19 - 1:20pm

    @David Raw “Richard Dawkins has lost: meet the new new atheists”
    I was struck by the suggestions of ritual practices for atheists and humanists. There’s probably some appeal in that given the growth in stuff like mindfulness. I saw a report recently that against a backdrop of falling church attendance there was a rise in numbers attending midweek evensong where people could enjoy all of the trappings of a high church service without the inconvenience of a religious sermon (and given that these are generally in cathedrals there’s probably a “metropolitan” element as well).
    Over all though i’m not entirely sure what point the author of the article is making. Mostly he seems to be railing against a particularly militant type of anti-religious atheism personified by Richard Dawkins, and commending the benefits of picking a religion, any religion, for “community, practice, habit”.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 30th Dec '19 - 2:55pm

    David Raw, thank you, an interesting article

  • @Manfaring: I admit to not being a regular reader of the bible, not since my long-ago confirmation anyway, but a quick refresh from Wikipedia states that ‘Mark’ is the gospel considered to have been written closest to the actual time of Jesus; less than a century afterwards, possibly as few as two or three generations, and has NO mention of the nativity story at all.

    And, if Ed Chooses to employ a clearly fictional account of the nativity made up to agree with Judaic prophecy (The first ‘Christians’being Jews who wished to incorporate Jesus as the messiah into their own religion, not set up a seperate new one), one with holes in the story you could ride a bus through, to direct policy on current political issues such as migration, with a side dig at “believers in unicorns” (ie Brexit) he has got to expect some criticism.

    And Richard Dawkins… far from a perfect choice, but I’d vote for him above any candidate I’ve seen put forward by the Lib Dems in the past ten years. Also.. I’m beginning to think ‘Christian Democrats’ might be a more suitable name for many in your party.

  • @Martin (2.55 p.m.): My use of the phrase “mirror image of a Christian literalist” means that both Professor Dawkins and Christian literalists understand the Bible to be making scientific claims about the way in which the world works. Dawkins sees these as mistaken but the literalist sees them as correct. However, a literal interpretation of the creation accounts in Genesis (and a literal approach to everything) does not represent the history of biblical exegesis. For example, both Augustine and Basil of Caesarea (Fourth Century) interpret these mythologically and have the concept of evolution.

    In terms of the Argument from Design, Dawkins relies heavily on the version of William Paley (1802) who was a deist rather than an orthodox Christian. His argument was criticised by JH Newman and other Christian theologians.

    Professor Dawkins is undoubtedly a fine scientist but his grasp of Christian history and thought is deficient to put it kindly.

    (I use the term ‘literalist’ rather than ‘fundamentalist’ because it is possible to believe in the fundamentals of biblical teaching without being a literalist.)

    I think you would enjoy John Gray’s book which is recommended in my original post.

  • Peter Martin 31st Dec '19 - 10:25am

    II’m not against any religion per se but I would say it should be kept out of politics. I notice that many of the EU countries have a fondness for including the adjective “Christian” in the names of their political parties.

    This strikes me as rather sectarian and lacking any sense of genuine internationalism. But maybe that’s just a “Lexiteer” POV !

  • When the myth of the Father Christmas tale to children is debunked as harmful the charge of ‘Bah-Humbug’ is used..
    However, there are striking similarities between that and Christianity; the good ‘child’ gets rewarded and the bad one does not.

    As an adult atheist I treat both in the same way; if they help to explain the unexplicable to believers then “Why Not”?

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