The Rt Rev Joseph Devine, Bishop of Motherwell

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Over the past decade, one felt a suppression of Christian religious identity – even the very name of Christmas was subjected to critical abuse.

‘Wintervaal’ and ‘Winterfest’ were trumpeted as if to repudiate the holy and sacred celebration of the birth of Christ. Yet I now sense a quiet recovery of Christian self-confidence. Christians have increasingly taken up the challenge to defend and promote Britain’s religious heritage against fanatical political correctness, secular excesses, multicultural intolerance and anti-Christian sentiment that has been infecting the nation’s everyday life.

Yet whatever the disrespect shown to the Christian faith in our own country it is as nothing compared to the discrimination and persecution endured by Christians in other parts of the world such as the Middle East and China where many are forced to worship in secret and face imprisonment or even death for doing so.

But perhaps Christmas represents a special time of year to stand up for Christianity!

Last year, in the Chinese capital’s oldest Catholic Church, the queue of people hoping to attend Christmas midnight Mass stretched out into the distance far beyond its entrance – a very brave and highly visible proclamation of their faith.

And now we learn that in spite of these dangers and hardships up to 100 million Chinese are now practising Christians – possibly a higher proportion of the country’s 1.3 billion people than in Britain – and they outnumber the 76 million members of the Chinese Communist Party.

At this very special time for Christians let us pray for our persecuted Christian brothers and sisters across the world.

So be glad! Christmas is coming. For Christmas is a jubilee of joy, innocence, love, hope and salvation – the birth of the infant Jesus Christ, the saviour of humanity and God’s own son!

I wish you all the peace and love of Christ and a happy and blessed Christmas.