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Merry Christmas from everyone at KentOnline

By Amy Nickalls

It's finally here!

From everyone at KentOnline we hope you have a lovely Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Here are some messages from some of the people of Kent:

Helen Whately, MP for Faversham and Mid Kent

Helen Whately
Helen Whately

Brussels, charades and long arguments - in Parliament it’s like every day is Christmas! Top of my wishlist is getting a break from Brexit debates and spending some time with my family.

Thankfully, we’ve moved back home after our house was flooded in the spring. While in Westminster it feels like a political earthquake, it’s lovely to return to normality at home. I’m hugely grateful for the kind messages and offers of help we received.

In the summer, the Prime Minister appointed me the Conservative Party’s vice-chair for women.

In this centenary year of women winning the right to vote, I’ve been at the forefront of a cross-party campaign to get more women to stand for election.

Parliament is very different from how it was in 1918, but a century on, just under a third of MPs are women. One thing we know is that many women wait to be asked. If you’re a woman reading, please consider putting yourself forward.

It feels strange that Parliament is in such a divided state at a time of year that’s all about family, peace and coming together. Whatever happens in the New Year, I’ll try to do the right thing, to the best of my judgement, for my constituency and the country as a whole.

Being an MP is a privilege and an opportunity to do good, but it’s also a responsibility. This year that responsibility has weighed particularly heavily on my mind. I hope that next year we will be able to move on from the divisions of Brexit and focus on the things we need to do to make Britain a better place to live.

I wish everyone reading this a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Bishop of Rochester James Langstaff

Vicar with Bishop of Rochester (1596748)
Vicar with Bishop of Rochester (1596748)

The Christmas story has at its heart a family caught up in events dictated by others. A young woman, expecting a child, finds herself having to travel in the later months of pregnancy to her partner’s ancestral home, Bethlehem, for a census. When they arrive,space is hard to find and then she goes into labour. That child comes to be born in temporary borrowed accommodation.

According to St Matthew’s Gospel, at some point in that child’s infancy, the family has to flee because of persecution and they become refugees in another country. And all of this is in the context of a country occupied by a foreign power, Rome, and ruled through various local princelings, most of whom were most concerned for their own survival and enrichment.

I recently took part in a Christmas event for a charity of which I am a patron. It supports children and their families living with disability in and around Bethlehem. Around the same time it was reported that in our own country over 82,000 households are living in temporary accommodation, including an estimated 120,000 children. And in my national role as Bishop to HM Prisons, I am only too well aware of the negative effects on children and families both of being victims of crime and of having a parent in prison.

As I reflect on these things, suddenly the 2000 year-old story of that family seems to resonate with the realities faced by too many children in the world today, whether in our own land or across the world. And every child is precious. But that story is also a story of hope. For from that unpromising start of temporary accommodation, persecution and flight, it becomes a story of God’s loving engagement with the world.

Through that child Jesus, God gives life and light and hope for all humanity. His example comes to inspire people to work for the good of others, to seek justice, to show love, to live in ways of goodness and truth.

And this Christmas across our world, that message continues to be proclaimed in word and deed. Within all the political and economic confusions of our times, and in the face of the personal challenges and anxieties which many live with, here is a message about a birth, the possibility of new beginnings, and the offer of hope for humankind.

Tracey Crouch MP for Chatham and Aylesford

Tracey Crouch (6189998)
Tracey Crouch (6189998)

It has been a manic year with some highs and lows for all of us. But now, with the festive season upon us I hope we can put some of that to one side and instead reflect on the things we should be during this time.

Although I am a Christian, I am a very poor church goer. Christmas is different and I do try and go in order to remember what it is all about, rather than get sucked into a commercial craze with little reflection on why it even exists. And whenever I do I am pleased I did. Sitting there in church, admiring the centuries old craftsmanship, with the smartphone off allows you to turn your attention to the sermon and the prayers, especially crafted for a time of year that many of us find joyous but others do not it creates a calm thoughtfulness that allows you to think of others less fortunate.

I see many of those people throughout the year and each Christmas a local church asks us to nominate people who would benefit from a hamper. Others, such as the employees at South East Water, have their own outreach schemes. We think more about our single elderly neighbours at this time of year and perhaps give more money to charities helping the vulnerable.

And it is not just those who are vulnerable we think of but those who are away working over the Christmas period such as our emergency services and armed forces. The Christmas story gives us a message of thanks but also a prayer for peace and happiness. And it is all I wish for all my constituents this festive period. Happy Christmas.

Bishop of Dover Trevor Willmott

All Saints Church, Church Road, Murston. Kent Savers Credit Union opens its first church based branch at All Saints, Murston. The Bishop of Dover, the Rt Rev Trevor Willmott, will be the first to open an account. Bishop of Dover, the Rt Rev Trevor Willmott cuts the ribbon.. Picture: Simon Hildrew FM2996951 (5323058)
All Saints Church, Church Road, Murston. Kent Savers Credit Union opens its first church based branch at All Saints, Murston. The Bishop of Dover, the Rt Rev Trevor Willmott, will be the first to open an account. Bishop of Dover, the Rt Rev Trevor Willmott cuts the ribbon.. Picture: Simon Hildrew FM2996951 (5323058)

"You talk a lot about Jesus, but have you ever seen Him?” A seemingly random question asked of me when on a recent, ordinary visit around the Diocese.

But it made me think.

Made me think at a time when I feel our country is deeply anxious and uncertain about its future.

Made me think when I recently met a number of people who are most certainly not looking forward to Christmas.

Made me think as I read that an increasing number of people in our country will spend this Christmas Day alone, when the only face they might see is that of themselves reflected in a mirror.

Made me think as I listened to the stark warnings coming from the International Conference on the environment about the fragility of the world today.

In the midst of this, dare I say, that I have seen the face of Jesus?

Seen the face of a love which I can barely talk about, let alone understand. A face of a child born in the squalor of a stable in what was then one of the remotest and poorest parts of the world. The face of a dying man, who in his own agony can still say ‘Father forgive them for they know not what they do’.

Dare I? Yes, I dare and yes, I must if I am to be faithful to the one who calls me. For to keep silent is to allow the darkness to prevail.

The message of Christmas is that God comes among us in a very ordinary way. In our very ordinary world I find and recognise His face.

I see His face in the face of a friend or neighbour.

In the face of a volunteer in one of our night shelters.

In the face of a prison visitor who, week by week, patiently sits and listens to the story of a broken life.

In the face of someone whose own life may be filled with pain and suffering, yet still dares to speak of that love which transforms and makes whole even the most broken.

This is the world, our world, with all of its anxieties and darkness, which God comes to save. The world in which He invites us to see His face, the face of love in Jesus Christ, in all those around us.

But even more than that, invites us to dare to show that face of love ourselves.

Have you ever seen Jesus?

May the love of the Lord Jesus fill all of our hearts afresh this coming Christmastide.

Leader of Medway Council Alan Jarrett

Cllr Alan Jarrett Medway Council St George's Centre, Chatham Picture: Gary Browne FM4779990 (1013987)
Cllr Alan Jarrett Medway Council St George's Centre, Chatham Picture: Gary Browne FM4779990 (1013987)

2018 has been a momentous year in so many ways. It was heart-warming to see so many residents of all ages support our Armed Forces Day at the Great Lines in Gillingham, as well as the parade through Chatham to mark 100 years since the end of WW1. Together we remembered those who have lost their lives through war. Medway has a strong military background and I am honoured we work so closely with Brompton Barracks to show our support to serving personnel and veterans.

There have been many special moments over the past year, including communities coming together to celebrate Medway’s twentieth anniversary. I was delighted to see families from across the five towns enjoying the free Focus On festivals we arranged. There have been significant improvements in Medway over the past two decades since Medway Council was formed, and the ongoing regeneration programme is already proving to offer further opportunities for all.

Our efforts to provide more opportunities for those who live in Medway is attracting the attention of families and business people from across London and the south-east. I was delighted to see Rochester Riverside launch this year – it’s our flagship housing development which will provide a school, hotel and 1,400 new homes just a stone’s throw away from historic Rochester High Street.

This year’s achievements would not have been possible without the hard work of our partner agencies and volunteers, and especially Medway Council staff who deliver a wide range of services through thick and thin. Their commitment to helping our most vulnerable residents and providing quality services for everyone is commendable – they’re part of the reason Medway is a truly special place to live, work, learn and visit.

I wish you all the very best for the year ahead.

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