A COVENANT WITH IMMANUEL

A COVENANT WITH IMMANUEL

2Kings 11:17 And Jehoiada made a covenant between the LORD and the king and the people, that they should be the LORD’S people; between the king also and the people.

According to the census figures published earlier this month, there was a decrease in people who identify as Christian (from 71.7 per cent to 59.3 per cent) and an increase in those reporting no religion (from 14.8 per cent to 25.1 per cent) in England and Wales, between 2001 and 2011. There were increases in the other main religious group categories, with the number of Muslims increasing the most (from 3.0 per cent to 4.8 per cent).

Of the other main religious groups, 1.5% of people identified themselves as Hindu in 2011, 0.8% as Sikh, 0.5% as Jewish and 0.4% as Buddhist.

A simple addition shows that just 8% of the population now have religious cultures which are not Christian, but that hardly seems to make us quite as ‘multi-cultural’ as the diversity industry would like.  The majority are still ticking the box on the census form marked ‘Christian’.

Now that does not mean they all go to church, or that they are all born again of water and the spirit, or that they have all read the Bible all the way through.  But it does mean they identify with the Christian faith.

This is the time of year when stories come out about crazy stunts intended to downgrade Christmas.  There is a dearth of Christian Christmas cards.  The expression ‘Season’s Greetings’ abounds.  In the States, the American Family Association is calling for a boycott of ‘Scrooge’ firms who refuse to mention the word ‘Christmas’ in their advertising.  Normally the excuse for all this is that they ‘do not want to offend those of other faiths’.

 

But actually, I do not know any people of other faiths who are actively campaigning against Christian festivals in the UK.  I do not know of any Muslims (who one might see as the most likely group) who are offended by Christmas.  It is Christ’s death and ressurection which offends them, not his birth.  Of course, if we had as many Muslims in the general population as there are in Tower Hamlets (36%) it might be different.

Indeed, in Tower Hamlets it is different.  Muslims are in both political parties there and they have a majority in the Labour administration which forms policy and on the Council as a whole.  They have renamed four of the six wards named after the Christian faith (St Mary’s, St Peter’s, St James’ and Holy Trinity – the latter especially offensive to Muslims) and St Dunstan’s and St Katharine’s only escaped by being amplified to St Dunstan’s and Stepney Green Ward and St Katharine’s and Wapping Ward respectively.

In thirty years’ time, given current demographic trends and the more militant stance of Islam in general and young Muslims in particular, it could all look a lot different.  Christian Voice is currently almost the only opposition to changing the rules of succession to the Crown to remove the preference for male heirs.  But to be frank, in forty or fifty years’ time, when the child of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge should succeed to the throne, the population could be clamouring for a Caliph rather than for a king – or queen.

Nevertheless, as things stand today, Muslims cannot demand the whole population celebrate Eid Al Fitr from a population base of less than 5%.

Actually, the talk about ‘multi-culturalism’, the restriction on advertising in libraries by a Christian environmentalist group, all the barmy ‘winterval’ stuff, comes not from religious minorities, but from secularist activists in diversity units up and down the land using the presence of faiths other than Christianity in the UK as a stick with which to beat the Christian faith and through it the Christian God and Saviour they so hate with a passion.

It’s not just the UK.  The extraordinary decision of the National Agency for Education (NEA) in Sweden to ban all references to ‘God’ and ‘Jesus’ during school Advent services is out of the same secularist box.

That our Christian heritage informs everything we do is especially irritating to the anti-Christians among us.  For example, five out of the eight bank holidays in the United Kingdom are based on Christian festivals: Good Friday, Easter Monday, Whitsun (now renamed the ‘late spring bank holiday), Christmas Day and Boxing Day (St Stephen’s Day).  And so they should be.

New Year’s Day, May Day and the August Bank Holiday are secular, although the latter might have pagan or even Christian ‘harvest’ overtones.  Nevertheless, even two out of eight days in a year isn’t at all out of proportion to the atheist population in the UK.  As to people of other faiths, they like everyone are entitled to another twenty days off in a year.  That is four full weeks.  It is not unreasonable to expect them to celebrate Diwali or Hannukah on those if they wish.

The plain fact is: this is historically a Christian country with a Christian monarch and a Christian constitution.  Our monarch’s coronation service is based squarely on that of King Solomon, and the covenant made there between the monarch, the government, the people and Almighty God in the Lord Jesus Christ mirrors that of the priest-minister Jehoiada with which we opened.

Despite the secularist legislative onslaught laid out in the Christian Voice publication Britain in Sin, our laws still derive from the laws of Alfred the Great, who based his ‘dooms’ on the five books of Moses, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy, all of which were endorsed and even quoted from by the Lord Jesus Christ.  Christians and atheists alike appeal to principles of justice, equity, honesty and fair-play set out in the pages of the Bible. 

Such values are by no means universal.  Honesty is absent in Islam, because Mohammed said a Muslim could lie to protect his faith.  Social care and equality are missing in Hinduism, because to help a beggar might interfere with his ‘karma’ and because the poor deserve to be in the caste they are because of their previous misdeeds.  Diligence is a foreign concept to Buddhism, because if everything is an illusion, why bother planting crops?

Secularists working to dismantle our Christian heritage are sawing off the branch they are sitting on.  Examine the wreckage of the Christian principle of our duty to care for others in our public services which has been left by the secularist idea of targets.  Or consider the disregard for human life left by a generation’s use of abortion.  Or the crassness and coarseness in entertainment which has resulted from overturning Christian principles of decency and decorum.

All that we take – or took – for granted as good in the UK comes from the Christian faith, an unashamed force for individual and societal good throughout the world.

Look at how many hospitals in the United Kingdom are named after saints.  London has St George’s, St Bartholomew’s and St Thomas’s, and Tommy’s neighbour Guy’s was also a Christian foundation with a wonderful chapel to this date.  In Manchester there is Saint Mary’s.  In Bradford, St Luke’s.  In Oldham, All Saints.  In Ashford Saint Peter’s.  And so on.  The Knights Hospitaller provided succour to travellers throughout these islands and the world in the middle ages.  The Church provided for the poor for centuries until the modern state decided that was its responsibility.  In other lands, Christian missionaries were and are at the forefront of setting up schools, hospitals and orphanages.

I have yet to hear of someone leaving a life of crime, packing up drugs, stopping self-harming, getting out of prostitution, let alone becoming free from homosexual desires, by becoming an atheist.  But I know many people personally and know of many others delivered from these things by the power of Jesus Christ.  Their testimonies of transformation are all over the web and they live all over the world.

I have yet to hear of an atheist starting up an orphanage at his own expense, as the Christian Thomas Barnado did in the 1860s.

Or of an atheist campaigning at his own expense, unsupported by public money, against slavery, as Evangelical Christian William Wilberforce did in the early 19th century.

Or to limit factory and working hours, set up schools for the children of city slums, champion the cause of chimney sweeps’ boys and improve housing conditions for ordinary men and women, as the Christian philanthropist Lord Shaftsbury did in the med nineteenth-century.

I debated this subject with Keith Porteous Wood, the homosexual director of the National Secular Society, on BBC radio recently.  All he could come up with was that atheists ‘care for the planet’.  They might well care for the planet.  But Christians care for people.

The Old Testament has more of a societal emphasis and the New Testament focuses more on the individual.  Nevertheless, a common thread that all societal institutions, individual, family, state, corporate worship, relate to and derive their authority from Almighty God runs all the way through the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation.

Some Christians today veer too much towards the individualistic end of the spectrum and promote redemption – as vital as that is to each one of us – to the exclusion of our Christian duty to society, both in charitable works and in standing up for righteousness.  What we celebrate at Easter is important, but it is not more important that what happened when Christ was born, or when he ascended.  All these events in the most extraordinary life to ever have been lived form part of a whole.

The Christians down the ages have gone about their philanthropy precisely because of the incarnation of Jesus Christ we celebrate at Christmas.  God was interested enough and involved enough in our human condition to become one of us at a point in history.  Jesus Christ, Immanuel, ‘God with us’, healed the sick, comforted the bereaved, even raised the dead, taught the good news and commanded men to repent.

He set an example for us to follow.  He told Christians they would be judged and rewarded in the kingdom of God not by how many prayers they made, but by how closely they kept faith in him, kept his commandments and dealt with their fellow human beings.  He was among us as one who serves:

Luke 22:25 And he said unto them, The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; … 26 But ye not so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve. 27 For whether is greater, he that sitteth at meat, or he that serveth? is not he that sitteth at meat? but I am among you as he that serveth.

Matt 25:34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: 35 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: 36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. 37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? 38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? 39 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? 40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

Gal 6:9 And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.

That is the heritage of service Christ Jesus left behind, that is just one reason why we should celebrate his birth at Christmas and why we should fight to preserve the Christian faith in this United Kingdom.

 

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