In an age where we are made very much more conscious of the great divisions there are in our world it is good to remember that Christmas says that in the end the sign needed is a child born in poverty; to somebody from a place called Nazareth, from which, they used to say, no good can come. Then the first ones who came to see him, the shepherds, said: "we need saving, our life is not what it ought to be." The Christmas feast is therefore a message of hope and assurance for each and every one of us without exception. But this year it needs another awareness to be complete. On a visit to St Edmund Arrowsmith High School in Prescot, I asked a group of pupils: "How many of you have a relative or someone you know in the Armed Services?" More than half the hands were raised. This year we will only know the full blessing of Christmas and New Year if we refuse to forget the men and women from this country in Iraq and Afghanistan at this time. It would be unworthy of the feast of selfless giving for us to carry on the festivities as if this country were not involved in theatres of war. Whenever this year we drink to each other's health, let there be an added line: "To the health and well-being of those this year far from home. May the Prince of Peace whose birth this season recalls, so change hearts that they shall soon with honour return home.
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