David Cameron strikes a religious tone in a Christmas message to the nation – quoting the Bible in an appeal for people to remember the armed forces and emergency services amid the festivities.
He said Britain “showed the world what we’re made of” in 2012 thanks to the Olympic and Paralympic Games and Team GB’s astounding medal haul.
But he said the end of the year was also a time to focus on the Christian message and said he would pray for everyone to have a happy and peaceful time “however you celebrate this time of year”.
In a speech last year Mr Cameron said that the values of the Bible “go to the heart” of what it means to be British – though he admitted he was no more than a “vaguely practising” Christian “full of doubts” about theological issues.
During a rare foray into religious issues, he used the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible to urge the Church of England to lead a revival of traditional Christian values to counter the country’s “moral collapse”.
His latest faith-centred message however comes amid anger among many senior church figures and traditionalist Conservative MPs over plans to allow same-sex marriage.
The Bishop of Leicester has accused him of being out of touch with the “vast majority of practising religious people” despite assurances that no churches will be forced to carry out such ceremonies.
“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,” Mr Cameron said.
“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.”
“But Christmas also 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,” he went on.
“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.
“With that in mind, I would like to pay particular tribute to our brave service men 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.”
He concluded: “So however you celebrate this time of year, it is my hope and prayer that you have a happy and peaceful Christmas.”