BELIEF: Faith in the traditional Christmas nativity is being lost
WITH THE increased cynicism that exists in society towards issues of faith, it’s imperative churches make sure their light shines bright during Christmas and that’s what many churches seem set to do, whether it is through their celebratory services or special charitable initiatives.
Aside from Christians, it seems that millions are increasingly losing faith in the Christmas story. A 2014 YouGov survey found that only 28 per cent believed that an Angel of the Lord appeared to shepherds to announce the birth of Jesus. Fifty one per cent didn’t believe the story and 20 per cent weren’t sure. Only 37 per cent believed that Wise men were led to Jesus by a star and brought gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh and only 29 per cent believed that Jesus was laid in a manger.
A COMROS survey conducted on behalf of think tank Theos in 2010 found that:
• Fifty one per cent agreed with the statement “the birth of Jesus is irrelevant to my Christmas" while 46 per cent disagreed with the statement.
• Eighteen per cent agreed with the statement “I dread Christmas", while 81 per cent disagreed. Only 13 per cent agreed with the statement: “I would borrow money to ensure I could afford to buy decent Christmas presents" – 86 per cent disagreed with the statement.
• Fifty four per cent agreed “Christmas is over-rated", while 44 per cent disagreed with the statement.
• Sixty one per cent agreed “Christmas is mainly for children", while 38 per cent disagreed.
• Thirty six per cent said they would be attending a Christmas service, while 62 per cent said they would not be going to one and two per cent were unsure.
Despite these views, churches are doing what they can to make light shine during this special season and spread some Christmas cheer.
Numerous churches are set to distribute hampers prior to Christmas so that vulnerable families can enjoy a Christmas meal. The New Testament Assembly recently launched an appeal to raise £6,000 to purchase food items for 600 hampers. Jesus House in Brent Cross, north London is expecting to distribute 1,000 hampers while New Wine Church will continue a tradition it started in 2002, giving away 800 hampers with assistance from the local mayor.
Other churches will be hosting meals for the elderly, the lonely and those who have no family while one chef has offered to cook a meal for a family on Christmas Day. Others will be presenting children in their congregations with presents.
Although Christmas is a time of celebration it can be a sad period for people who have lost friends or family. With this fact in mind, NTA Tooting will hold a special service on December 18 from 9 10.30am to enable people to remember loved ones.
Christmas provides a great challenge for the church to reach people with the story of Christ’s coming to the world and what it means. It’s heartening that in an age of cynicism, churches are succeeding in sharing hope and love in practical ways.