Theresa May paid tribute to those working over the festive period to serve the community
The Prime Minister paid tribute to all those whose service to the community and country took them away from their families over the festive period.
Mrs May, who is the daughter of a vicar and a regular churchgoer, also highlighted Christian values in her speech.
She urged people to “take pride” in the nation’s Christian heritage, which she said allows people to practise their faith free from fear and points to those communities denied such freedoms, including the “sickening persecution” of the Rohingya Muslims forced to flee Myanmar.
Pressing for a renewed resolve to safeguard the rights of all religious communities to exercise their beliefs in peace, the Prime Minister called on people of all faiths to unite behind common-held ideals.
As people gather to celebrate Christmas with friends and family Mrs May thanked “all those whose service to others means they will be spending time away from their loved ones”.
She said: “Men and women in our Armed Forces whose humbling bravery and daily sacrifices help to ensure the security of our nation and our allies around the world.
“The heroes in our emergency services whose courage and dedication so inspired the nation in response to tragedy at Grenfell Tower and the abhorrent terrorist attacks in Manchester and London.
But whose service saves lives in our communities every day, including Christmas Day.
“And the thousands of volunteers in our country who will give up their time to make someone else’s Christmas that little bit better.”
The PM praised the ‘heroes’ in the emergency services who offered aid in response to Grenfell fire
Mrs May said these “selfless acts”, along with many others, embodied the nation’s shared values.
She added: “Christian values of love, service and compassion that are lived out every day in our country by people of all faiths and none.
“Let us take pride in our Christian heritage and the confidence it gives us to ensure that in Britain you can practice your faith free from question or fear.
“Let us remember those around the world today who have been denied those freedoms – from Christians in some parts of the Middle East to the sickening persecution of the Rohingya Muslims.
“And let us reaffirm our determination to stand up for the freedom of people of all religions to speak about and practise their beliefs in peace and safety.”
Theresa May highlighted the sacrifice of those working to keep the country safe
She went on: “So this Christmas, whatever our faith, let us come together confident and united in the values we share.”
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, in his Christmas message, urged people to show love and care for each other.
He said it was a time of year to think of others less fortunate.
“Like those who have no home to call their own or who are sleeping rough on our streets,” Mr Corbyn said.
“We think about those who feel cut off and lonely.
Jeremy Corbyn urged people to show love and care for each other in his Christmas message
Many older citizens to whom we owe so much will be spending what should be a time of joy alone.
“We think of others such as carers who look after loved ones, people with disabilities or dementia.
“And abroad we think of those living in nations like Yemen, Syria and Libya in fear of bombs and bullets, of injury and death.”
He added: “None of this is inevitable.
“We pride ourselves on being a compassionate nation.”