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WATCH: Church of England Christmas advert encourages people to 'follow the star' to church

by Tola Mbakwe

With the theme "Follow the Star", the advert tells the story of Christmas preparations at St Peter's Church, Stockton-on-Tees.

The advert is accompanied by singers from Soul Sanctuary Gospel Choir performing "We Three Kings", which is the Church's official 2019 Christmas carol. Featuring in the advert are refugees and asylum seekers who attend St Peter's, together with Stockton residents.

In the ad, members of the congregation speak lines from 'We Three Kings' in turn. One line is spoken in the Farsi (Persian) language by an asylum seeker who fled his native Iran.

Other members of the church's English Language Class, which serves people from more than 30 countries, also feature, together with pensioners who hang a large star from the church tower and a trio of 'wise men'.

The parish priest, Rev Bill Braviner said: "Jesus was a refugee and the themes of displacement and journeying are at the heart of the Christmas story.

"Nowadays, journeys are not made by donkey or camel but, as in the time, of Jesus they can be perilous - especially for those fleeing oppression and war.

"The star on our church shows Jesus as the destination for all who travel to Christmas, from near and far, wherever they are in the world, and the best bit is that the story doesn't end after the Christmas lights have come down."

Michael, a Christian from Iran who speaks in Farsi (Persian) in the advert said:

"In Iran, it is not always easy to be a Christian, but Jesus helped me, and I want to follow him at Christmas and all year round.

"I have found peace at this church and have been embraced by the congregation. Christmas can be a time of new life and hope for all who have had sadness and turmoil in their life."

At the launch of the #FollowTheStar campaign at Lambeth Palace Most Rev Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury said: "Christmas is rightly a time for celebration, bringing joy and comfort to the lives of others. The reason we do this is that we are each offered the most extraordinary gift at Christmas in the birth of Jesus.

"I hope that everyone who sees this campaign, whether or not they know anything about Jesus, will feel moved - like the Magi - to follow the star to church and to ask the questions: 'why am I here, what am I for, and why I am loved?'

"It doesn't matter who you are - whether you're a regular church-goer or you never go to church, there is something in #FollowTheStar and in Jesus for everyone."

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