Giving thanks for the NHS

On 5 July 1948 the National Health Service in Britain was launched by Aneurin Bevan, the then minister of health. The NHS is based on 3 core principles: that it meets the needs of everyone, is free at the point of delivery and is based on clinical need, not the ability to pay. For 70 years the people of Britain have benefited greatly from the skills and dedication of the NHS doctors, nurses and other staff who have treated them and cared for them.

I recently watched a programme about the work of junior doctors in a busy Accident and Emergency department. They were in their early 20s and worked long hours alongside their senior colleagues dealing with a wide range of conditions, some of which stretched their knowledge and skills to the limit. At one point the department was overwhelmed with patients, with beds in the corridors and patients waiting in ambulances outside. Yet the staff maintained a highly professional and caring attitude, taking time with each patient to carefully assess their needs. I was very impressed by their dedication and thankful that such amazing care is available to us all without the anxiety of wondering if we can afford the cost.

During his 3-year ministry Jesus healed many people of all kinds of diseases. Crowds of people came to him, sometimes late in the day, and he healed them all. Blind people received their sight, deaf people their hearing, dumb people were able to speak, lame people were able to walk, and lepers were cleansed. On at least 3 occasions he raised people back to life. The people who witnessed the healing ministry of Jesus were filled with awe and said, “A great prophet has appeared among us, God has come to help his people.”

God is deeply concerned with our physical needs and well-being. In Psalm 103 David wrote, “Praise the Lord, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits – who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases.” In their daily work doctors and nurses face complex medical conditions and are often conscious of their limitations. Some patients die suddenly and unexpectedly, others, with a very poor prognosis, recover. A good friend of ours is a doctor in a rural Christian hospital in Kiwoko in Uganda. She is responsible for the neonatal department which treats hundreds of mothers and babies every year. The motto of the hospital is “We treat, Jesus heals.”

The heavens declare the glory of God

The Voyager-1 spacecraft has become the first manmade object to leave the Solar System. Voyager was launched on 5 September 1977 to study the outer planets. It completed this task in 1989 and has just kept going. It is now 12 billion miles from earth. It takes 17 hours for radio signals from Voyager to reach earth. Voyager is now moving on to explore interstellar space. It will not approach another star for nearly 40,000 years, even though it is moving at 100,000mph. Transmissions from Voyager will stop in 10 years when its plutonium power sources are expected to run.

In December 1968 Apollo 8 was the first manned spacecraft to orbit the moon. The three astronauts were the first people to see the earth as a whole planet and were filled with awe. As they orbited the moon they read from Genesis, Chapter 1.

Bill Anders began, “We are now approaching lunar sunrise, and for all the people back on Earth, the crew of Apollo 8 has a message that we would like to send to you.’In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.
And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.’

Jim Lovell continued, “And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day. And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so. And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.”

Frank Borman concluded, “And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so. And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good.’ And from the crew of Apollo 8, we close with good night, good luck, a Merry Christmas – and God bless all of you on the good Earth.”

Jesus Loves Little Children

A recent report has highlighted the increasing commercialisation and sexualisation of children. Manufacturers and retailers have been targeting children with advertising on television and the internet, and near schools. Food retailers and toy makers have recruited 330,000 children, some as young as 5, to take part in market research for their products. Most of the children have been paid and some schools are paid £4000 a year when their pupils take part in these surveys.

Jesus had a special concern for children. When mothers brought their children to him he blessed them and prayed for them. On one occasion he put a little child in front of the people and said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.”

Children are naturally trusting and believe what they are told by those they trust. They have a capacity for awe and wonder. When they are taught the truth about God and Jesus they respond with trust and love. Those of us who are older need to learn from them. We can be sceptical and cynical and lose the ability to be moved by the greatness of God and the wonder of the love of Jesus. If we are to know God and enter his kingdom we need to change and become like little children.

Jesus also gave a solemn warning about those who seek to corrupt and exploit little children. He said, “If anyone causes one of these little ones, who believe in me, to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.”

Moral standards in our society are in freefall. This is reflected in many television programmes and on the internet. Parents and grandparents need to be more vigilant than ever in protecting their children from moral corruption. Governments are also responsible for protecting children from harm. God holds us all responsible for safeguarding children so that they can grow up free from exploitation by immoral and unprincipled people. We are keen to safeguard the environment for the good of our children. It is even more important that we safeguard their moral and spiritual development.