Prime minister says gospel reminds him of bravery of British troops, in unusually religious Christmas message
David Cameron has issued one of the most overtly religious Christmas messages of any recent British prime minister, citing in it the Gospel of John.
Cameron, who famously said in 2008 that his Anglicanism “sort of comes and goes”, said the gospel tells the world that Jesus Christ was “the light of all mankind”.
In his message, the prime minister says: “Christmas … gives us the opportunity to remember the Christmas story – the story about the birth of Jesus Christ and the hope that he brings to the countless millions who follow him.
“The Gospel of John tells us that in this man was life, and that his life was the light of all mankind, and that he came with grace, truth and love. Indeed, God’s word reminds us that Jesus was the Prince of Peace.”
Cameron stops short of quoting from the Gospel of John. But it says in Chapter 3, vs 16-17: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
“For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.”
Cameron, who sang carols with British troops in Helmand, Afghanistan, last week, says the gospel reminds him of the bravery of British troops.
He adds in his message: “With that in mind, I would like to pay particular tribute to our brave servicemen and women who are overseas helping bring safety and security to all of us at home; their families who cannot be with them over the holidays; and to all the dedicated men and women in the emergency services who are working hard to support those in need.
“When we are celebrating with family and friends, they and many others are all working on our behalf and deserve our thoughts and appreciation.”
The prime minister is keen to reach out to Christians amid anger in the Anglican and Catholic churches at government plans to legalise same sex marriage. The Bishop of Leicester accused Cameron of being out of touch with the “vast majority of practising religious people” even though the government has said that the Church of England and the Church in Wales will be barred from conducting the ceremonies.
Cameron’s religious tone contrasts with his description of his Anglicanism in a Guardian interview in July 2008. The then future prime minister said: “I believe, you know. I am a sort of typical member of the Church of England.
“As Boris Johnson once said, his religious faith is a bit like the reception for Magic FM in the Chilterns: it sort of comes and goes.
“That sums up a lot of people in the Church of England. We are racked with doubts, but sort of fundamentally believe, but don’t sort of wear it on our sleeves or make too much of it. I think that is sort of where I am.”
The prime minister also uses his message to reflect on an “extraordinary year” for Britain, in particular the success of the Queen’s Jubilee and the Olympics and Paralympics. He says: “Christmas gives us the opportunity to pause and reflect on the important things around us – a time when we can look back on the year that has passed and prepare for the year ahead.
“2012 has been an extraordinary year for our country. We cheered our Queen to the rafters with the Jubilee, showed the world what we’re made of by staging the most spectacular Olympic and Paralympic Games ever and – let’s not forget – punched way above our weight in the medals table.”