Christmas video 25: Christmas Starts with a Baby’s Giggle

The constant onslaught of Christmas advertising from October onwards can start to wear a little thin as we enter December. Something inside us knows that however lovely the advert featuring a snowman giving a gift to a unicorn is – or whatever this years iteration is – it’s not really what Christmas is all about.

Instead, here is a concise and creative away of sharing the crux of the Christmas message: two parents, one baby and a whole lot of love.

Jürgen Klopp’s update on Liverpool’s January transfer plans

Circumstances will dictate whether Liverpool are active in the January transfer window, which opens on New Year’s Day.

Jürgen Klopp was asked for an update on his plans in terms of potential incomings during Monday’s press conference to preview the Boxing Day meeting with Newcastle United at Anfield.

The boss said:

“I’m very happy with what I’ve got and what I have, but how I said, we don’t know and that’s the only little bit why I keep the door open because if some things happen then we need to have a look.

“Well, if a few more things happen then we need to have a look because there are a monstrous number of games still and it’s really important that we can always react.

“But as long as we can react then it’s all good, but how I said, if something will dramatically change then we need to have a look, that’s all. If nothing happens, then I would say we will not do anything.”

NORAD will still track Santa, despite the government shutdown

Even though the United States government’s shutdown has forced agencies to run with a skeleton staff, it won’t be affecting a long-running holiday tradition.  The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) confirmed that it’ll still be tracking Santa’s journey on Christmas Eve, which it has done so for the last 63 years.

Every year, around 1,500 volunteers take calls and answer emails from kids around the world about the whereabouts of Santa Claus with the help of satellite systems, high-powered radars and jet fighters.

In 2018, NORAD will also be publishing Santa’s location on social media, however, an estimated 140,000 calls are still expected to be made to the hotline, with volunteers taking two-hour shifts to answer enquiries.

NORAD Tracks Santa wouldn’t have started if not for a typo appearing on a newspaper ad back in 1955. The ad was placed on behalf of Sears, purporting to be from Santa himself. The ad read:

“HEY KIDDIES! Call me on my private phone and I will talk to you personally any time day or night”.

The ad published the wrong phone number, which directed to a top-secret CONAD (the predecessor to NORAD) line reserved for reporting a crisis. On duty was Colonel Harry Shoup, who received a call from a child looking for Santa Claus.  Shoup, initially thinking it was a prank, was incensed. But after realising it was indeed from a child, Shoup decided to play along as Santa.  Then, more calls from children came in, thus beginning a long holiday tradition that’s persevered to this day. Even if all in the White House is not well.

Christmas Video 24: Nativity on the Overground

Accompanied by an indie-folk version of ‘In the bleak midwinter’, the traditional tale of the nativity is shown juxtaposed against the urban background of South-East London.

All Saints Peckham, a church in Southeast London, took to the iconic London Overground to stage this fun and experimental video.  Part flashmob, part timelapse, part street theatre, the goal was to retell the Nativity story with London as our backdrop.

Filmed (remarkably) in only one take on a fairly cold Saturday morning.

Deaths of homeless people in England and Wales

Nearly 600 homeless people died on the streets or in temporary accommodation in England and Wales in 2017, up 24% in five years, according to the first government figures on the issue.

After a slight drop in 2013, deaths have risen every year since, from 475 in 2014 to 597 last year, figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show. The average age of a rough sleeper at death was 44 years for men and 42 years for women. Men made up 84% of homeless deaths.

London and the north-west had the highest mortality of homeless people in England and Wales. More than half of the deaths in 2017 were caused by drug poisoning, suicide or alcohol abuse. No figures were calculated for 2018.

On Wednesday a homeless man became the second rough sleeper to die outside parliament this year after he collapsed in a stairwell.

The figures, which are estimates, were calculated by checking death registrations in England and Wales for indications that a person was homeless at or near their time of death. ONS researchers searched for terms such as “no fixed abode” in records, also checking whether the address included in the death registration belonged to a night shelter or a hostel.

The north-west, including cities such as Manchester and Liverpool, experienced the largest increase in homeless deaths, more than doubling in five years, from 55 in 2013 to 119 in 2017.

Fatalities in the north-east and Yorkshire have risen by 71% and 58% respectively since 2013.

The ONS findings show a pattern of deaths among homeless people which is strikingly different from the general population. For example, the causes of deaths recorded provide an insight into the circumstances around people who die while having no home. It is already known that homeless people can have complex health and personal histories, as well as being exposed to high levels of risk and difficulty obtaining good quality medical care.

In October the government pledged that local authorities would hold serious case reviews to investigate all homeless deaths, but it has not provided any funding or support for this work.

More than 24,000 people in Britain will spend this Christmas sleeping rough or in cars, trains, buses or tents, according to figures by the homelessness charity Crisis.

On Tuesday the communities secretary, James Brokenshire, said government policy was not responsible for the rise in rough sleeping. Official figures show it has increased by 169% since 2010, but the true number is believed to be much higher.  Instead, Brokenshire blamed the spread of psychoactive drugs such as spice, a rise in non-UK nationals on the streets, and family breakdown.

Ben Humberstone, the ONS’s head of health and life events, said:

“Every year hundreds of people die while homeless. These are some of the most vulnerable members of our society so it was vital that we produced estimates of sufficient quality to properly shine a light on this critical issue. Today we have been able to do just that.

“Our findings show a pattern of deaths among homeless people that is strikingly different from the general population. For example, homeless people tend to die younger and from different causes. The average age of death last year was 44 years, with 84% of all deaths being men. More than half were related to drug poisoning, suicide or alcohol – causes that made up only 3% of overall deaths last year.”

Martin Tett, the Local Government Association’s housing spokesman, said all homeless deaths were preventable, but he said supporting people at risk of homelessness was becoming increasingly difficult for councils because of lack of funding:

“Proper resourcing of local government funding is essential if we are going to end rising homelessness. Councils also need to keep 100% of the receipts of any homes they sell to replace them and reinvest in building more of the genuinely affordable homes they desperately need and the ability to adapt welfare reforms to prevent people from losing their home where possible”.

Brokenshire said on Thursday the figures would help the government in its “mission to end rough sleeping for good”.

“No one is meant to spend their lives on the streets or without a home to call their own. Every death on our streets is too many and it is simply unacceptable to see lives cut short this way.”

“To stop people from becoming homeless in the first place, we’ve changed the law to require councils to provide early support for those at risk of being left with nowhere left to go, are boosting access to affordable housing and making renting more secure.”

ONS Publications

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Christmas Video 22: The Mystery of the New Noisy Neighbour

A brilliant child-friendly way of exploring the nativity through the eyes of a mystery-solving mouse, as he discovers more about the birth of Jesus, finding that Jesus really is Emmanuel, Rescuer and King:

Order the Noisy Neighbour story booklet, download this film for free and get more Christmas resources at the Bible Society website.

Van Dijk: I’m more interested in wins than goals

Virgil van Dijk prizes wins and clean sheets above scoring goals.

However, Liverpool’s No.4 acknowledged that netting during Friday’s 2-0 win over Wolverhampton Wanderers represented a ‘very proud moment’.

Van Dijk capped an immense individual display at Molineux with his second goal for the Reds – a classy volleyed finish from fellow scorer Mohamed Salah’s pinpoint cross that arrived midway through the second half.

But from the Dutchman’s point of view, the three points and a shutout are the most important matters arising from another impressive result.  Van Dijk said, when asked if he was frustrated to have gone nearly 12 months without scoring for his club:

“Not at all – I’m more happy that I’m keeping clean sheets with my team and winning games

“Obviously scoring a goal is a bonus and obviously a very proud moment and hopefully there’s more to come, but I’m more focused on winning games.

“We are very happy and at the end I am happy with the win. In the first half we were a bit sloppy at times, but second half we did it well and we are very happy that we won.

“It’s a very tough place to come with these circumstances and how they play. They have shown throughout the season they are very good and disciplined and they have a clear idea. We knew before and it’s how we reacted to it and in the second half we dominated and created good chances.”

Victory on Friday extended Jürgen Klopp’s side’s unbeaten start to the Premier League season to 18 matches and widened the gap to second-placed Manchester City to four points – albeit with Pep Guardiola’s team retaining a game in hand.

Van Dijk, though, is not getting carried away:

“[There is] a long way to go yet.

“It’s a position that everyone wants to be in and we are in it at the moment. That’s the only thing it is and we need to keep going.

“The next game is Newcastle United on Wednesday and then Arsenal and Manchester City, so it can change but we are not going to think about that. We take it game by game.”

Klopp again deployed James Milner at right-back against Wolves and Van Dijk thinks the work that goes on at Melwood means players are able to slot in seamlessly to a backline that has conceded just seven times in the top flight this term.

“That’s a credit to the whole team and the hard work we put in day in, day out.

“Everyone has got enough quality to show it and everyone wants to work hard for each other. That’s the basis for a good team and we saw how Millie does it in the right-back position, Clyney came in last game and Dejan the same, it’s every week the same.

“We do it all together and it’s a good time to be a Liverpool player.”

Christmas video 21: Mary’s Song

Spoken Truth and the Bible Society have partnered together to tell the story of Mary’s journey to motherhood in a 21st century setting.  Mary’s Song is a spoken word poem and original song – enjoy!

I’ve used it with a couple of groups of non-Christian young people who I work with who really enjoyed exploring the themes from it.  Download the videos or the sheet music for free from here.

Youth Ministry and Church News from around the world

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