Omicron is spreading rapidly, but Delta is not disappearing. The two variants are circulating together. Previously Alpha wiped out the original variant and was then displaced by Delta. It is believed Omicron can get past some of the body's defences built up by vaccination and previous infection. The two variants are not competing for the same people. Delta cases since summer have been stable, but Omicron infections are rapidly driving the numbers up. As cases go up there is pressure to introduce more restrictions or a full lockdown. However, restrictions don't stop the epidemic - they prolong it. Pray for God to reinforce research capabilities for medical scientists and clarity of thought to all in the front line fighting the pandemic. Pray for God to give courage to our leaders as they make difficult decisions. May they be surrounded by wise counsel that hears Your voice. See also next article: Covid circuit breaker request.

A group of scientists are urgently calling upon the Government to utilise a ten-day circuit breaker lockdown to get Covid numbers under control as the UK breaks its record for daily new cases since the beginning of the pandemic. Independent Sage (not affiliated to the Government's own Sage) issued the emergency statement calling for circuit-breaker measures to be implemented immediately if the spread of Omicron is to be halted. We pray for God’s timing over every decision made regarding the pandemic. Father God, we ask you to give Boris Johnson’s spirit the discernment needed to hear your voice and the strength to do your will. May all our politicians be deaf to flawed agendas of man or harmful distractions of the enemy. May they carry the authority You gave them with grace and unity. We pray for politicians to have a double portion of wisdom.

Every seven seconds a person was referred for NHS mental health support in September. That comes as no surprise to Pastor Mick, a drug-dealer-turned-lifesaver during Covid, who each day meets people struggling to survive. In his 20s, Mick was a drug dealer consumed by cocaine and violence. He has now found faith and feeds the poor. His church in Burnley is expanding quickly - it has its own food and clothes banks. Mick also liaises with the police, housing organisations, the local council and drug rehabilitation services. He is particularly concerned about the lack of access to mental health care for the most vulnerable - people who find it difficult to see their GPs, let alone get access to a bed in a support facility. Mick blames the Covid lockdowns and the many months of restrictions. He hears stories of people who have spiralled down, turning to drugs and alcohol.

Twenty charities are calling for more support for patients with severely weakened immune systems who risk severe Covid illness if they catch the virus. Many have had three jabs, but still need a fourth for better protection. For example, Hal Cohen had a kidney transplant two years ago and takes immunosuppressants to stop his body rejecting the organ. He had his third vaccine in July but was told despite this that his body is not making enough antibodies to fight off the virus. The charities said, ‘Those who are immunosuppressed due to a health condition or treatment are advised to have a fourth Covid jab three months after their third dose.’ They are calling a smooth rollout of booster jabs for these people, which should provide much needed extra protection.

Christian climate activists dressed as Christmas puddings marched on Westminster calling on the Government to deliver on climate change commitments made at November’s COP26 summit. The pudding protesters are part of a movement demanding justice for the world’s most climate-vulnerable communities. The campaign is backed by 50,000+ people from churches across the UK and from all walks of life who signed a giant three-metre Christmas card for Boris Johnson. They want countries to deliver stronger national plans to keep 1.5°C alive and secure more ambitious climate finance commitments. They also want the Government to press for finance for climate-related loss and damage and move from fossil fuels to renewable energy. They said, ‘Christmas is a time of hope. We call on the Prime Minister to heed these messages from the British public, and by meeting the Government’s promises give hope to those hit hardest by climate change.’

The EU's LGBTQ+ goodwill ambassador cross-dressed as a bearded Virgin Mary for a same-sex rendition of the Holy Family draped in the colors of the transgender flag. Riccardo Simonetti appeared on the cover of a queer community magazine boasting thick facial hair in a white robe, blue head veil and holding a baby doll representing Jesus. He posted the photos to his Instagram feed with the caption, ‘If we ignore the fact that Jesus wasn’t white, we could believe the Virgin Mary had a beard, why not?’ Another photo depicts Simonetti, still dressed as Mary, with a man in a pink robe embracing him from behind. ‘Very proud and honoured to be on the cover of December’s issue of a queer institutions magazine. Special thanks to my friend @akwantu for playing Joseph in our newly-interpreted holy family photo using the trans flag as inspiration.’ The photo shoot drew backlash from Christians online, but he accused them of homophobia.

Omicron will become the dominant Covid variant in France by January. Germany, the Republic of Ireland, the Netherlands, and France have announced additional restrictions to stem the tide. Germany's health minister said they must prepare for a challenge never seen before. He has designated France, Norway and Denmark as ‘high risk’ and added tougher rules on UK arrivals. A third of Ireland’s new cases have been Omicron. They are expecting infections at a rate that far exceeds anything they have seen to date. Italy, Greece and Portugal announced that visitors from the EU, even those who have been vaccinated, must present a negative test result on arrival, to stem the tide of infections. The UK is hardest hit, but English people with Covid can end quarantine after seven days instead of ten if they test negative on days six and seven. England has new restrictions before Christmas, while Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have curbed social mixing.

Born and raised in Bethlehem, Grace teaches at Bethlehem Bible College and serves her local church. The Holy Land’s Christian population is just 1%. Grace said, ‘Today in Bethlehem, as Christianity continues to dwindle, we trust that the Lord will not leave Himself without a witness in this land. This year, my niece will be Mary in our church’s nativity play. As we watch the children join her as shepherds, wise men and angels, our hearts will be strengthened to know that Christianity still remains the heartbeat of this region, despite its decreasing percentage.

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