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Ghosting 2022


Allowing for the fact the past year will have been amazing for some of us (births, weddings, jobs – that kind of thing), for most it has been pretty rubbish and ready to be consigned to the bin along with the season’s wrapping paper and party poppers.


Enduring Covid, the invasion of Ukraine, three Prime Ministers shuffled in one long summer of drought, the shared bereavement of our Queen and an alarming cost of living crisis. And the truth is, no-one really saw it all coming. The Canadian author Douglas Coupland describes ours as an accelerated culture – and he wrote that before the internet took off. Today, we produce as much information every ten minutes as the first ten thousand generations of humanity combined. No wonder we feel queasy at the speed of events.


Recently, commentators have begun to call ours the age of radical uncertainty. Predicting the future has always been tricky and even super-forecasters only get it right for up to four hundred days out. In 2022, it was risky to predict what would happen next week.


Radical uncertainty produces personal insecurity, and this is not good for our health or our relationships. Many of us will try and take refuge in Christmas – a short season in which to ghost 2022 (thank you very much, had enough of that abusive relationship) and snuggle up (as far as the thermostat allows) with panettone and stollen, Netflix and charades. But January will still come.


All the more reason to take a deeper dive into Christmas. Filmgoers lap up origin stories, because they explain what comes next. And there is a trend for darker origins today. We don’t see the Nativity this way, but I think we are being asked to.


The mother of God’s Son gave birth miles away from the women she knew, in a cold and disease-ridden hovel while others contentedly bedded down next door. There was an occupying power and it liked to push people around with its bureaucracy. Had Mary died in childbirth, she would have been just another number to take off the census. And the State wanted her son dead. So God himself became a refugee, his earthly family fleeing in the night to a foreign nation where they had no idea what kind of reception awaited them.


We romanticise the stable, but in sugar coating it, we destroy the distinctively acidic flavour we are meant to taste. It does not feel OK when life is a mess. It is scary and undignified and there are no neat endings. But the Nativity tells us God has been there too. At his best with his sleeves rolled up, acting as midwife to the Messiah.


Our late Queen had a favourite Psalm, 121, and it was sung in St George’s Chapel as her coffin entered it:


The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time on and for evermore.


Even when you’re running for your life or running on empty.


Because his love for us is endlessly and inventively powerful.


May that peace be with you this Christmas time.



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