As we snuggle by the fireplace after a satisfying Christmas lunch, with wrapping paper strewn around the Christmas tree and surrounded by family and friends, we rejoice in celebrating the birth of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. We will also be conscious that there are many who may not have a warm home to live in, presents to give and receive and the peace on earth that we enjoy – things that we take for granted.

This year at St Mary’s our Christmas Giving will be shared between the Salvation Army Christmas Present Appeal and Open Doors (Gaza).

There is nothing more magical than seeing the joy and anticipation of children leading up to Christmas, wondering what may be in those beautifully wrapped parcels under the tree. However, with the cost-of-living crisis biting hard into the resources of many families, Christmas presents will be low on the list of priorities for many. Last year, the Salvation Army Christmas Present Appeal distributed over 75,000 gifts to needy children. With our support we are praying that fewer children will face Christmas day without a present to look forward to.

In 2022, the PCC committed that 50% of Christmas Giving should be used to support persecuted Christians.

There are about 1,000 Christians remaining in the Gaza Strip. It is the oldest Christian community in the world, established in the 4th century AD. In the mid-1990s, the Christian population was about 5,000 and they were able to live harmoniously with their Muslim neighbours. Since then, a combination of pressures from the Israeli government and Islamic extremists has made life more difficult for Christians in Gaza. Many have decided to leave. Since 2009, under Hamas and the resulting intensified Israeli blockade, Gazans live with increasing economic restrictions and poverty. Christians in particular have faced persecution for their faith. They are caught in the crossfire of the conflicts between the Israeli Defence Force and Hamas, of which the attack on Israeli settlements and subsequent retaliation by Israel in October 2023 is the latest. The Lord has left a remnant of believers in Gaza and we pray that they will be the light, love and comfort in the darkness that is looming in their land at this time.

If you would like to donate to the Christmas Giving charities this can be done via bank transfer to the usual PCC account – PCC of St Andrew & St Mary Magdalene (Sort Code: 60-13-35, Account No. 64261883). Please use as reference CHRISTMAS23.

If you are unable or would prefer not to donate via bank transfer, please ask one of the welcome team members at one of the in-person services for an envelope which can be placed in the collection boxes.