OPINION: Christmas will be different this year, but will never be cancelled!

Queen Elizabeth II recording her Christmas Day message at Buckingham Palace. Christmas will be diffe

Queen Elizabeth II recording her Christmas Day message at Buckingham Palace. Christmas will be different for many this year, but James says some parts of it will always survive - Credit: PA

Our columnist admits if will be a different December, but suggests the Christmas message will be just as strong as normal

The other evening I was planning Christmas with my parents.

It was, at best, a speculative conversation, that tried to second guess where we might be, what Boris might be thinking of doing, how things might seem, and included plenty of ifs – if things don’t change we’ll…

I assured them of course, that while Christmas might look different, it won’t actually be cancelled. The telling of the Christian story isn’t cancellable at all.

But what if we can’t have December 25 in the usual way we are all used to and know? What if the food is different? Who will be there?

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During our discussions, mother reminded us how the tradition of the Queen’s Christmas Message was of utmost importance to her father. It was a moment in the festivities in which his patriotism, forged in the heat of battle in war torn North Africa and Western Europe, would prompt him to stand up in his own sitting room as the national anthem was played. It seems almost bizarre now but I suspect he wasn’t alone and his generation considered such respect as perfectly appropriate.

I suppose what the conversation highlighted is that tradition, ritual, what we’ve always done in family life is important to us all. And any threat to that is slightly unnerving.

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But it’s been such a funny 2020 hasn’t it? No wonder people are worried as nothing seems beyond the reach of change and modification. I can’t help but admit that I wonder how we’ll look back at it when the benefit of hindsight lifts the veil on what has been really going on.

Whatever hindsight will reveal in terms of our behaviour, politics and economics, let alone “the science”; I think there is no doubt this has been a time of anxiety and of fear.

Indeed, as a clergyman in these strange days, I see first-hand the effects, not of the virus we are finding so hard to accept is here to stay, but the side effects of abject fear and unending worry in the lives and lifestyles of those whom I live among and serve, especially in terms of mental health and well-being.

And now public debate, as the veil gradually lifts, is descending into a polarised joust.

Those who question social distancing scream from the self-appointed pulpit of enlightenment to the Covid nervous.

While those who support the received wisdom of lockdowns and aggressive measures of social control are incensed by the unveiling and expression of views they are not ready or prepared to hear.

And all the time, the argy bargy, the divisive discourse, the insistence of each side, leaves us with the vulnerable, the confused, the frightened, the overwhelmed, are left yet more anxious and fearful.

Nonetheless, these strange months have, in some ways, brought us together as well. In many of our communities we have got to know each other a little better.

I do wonder that when we finally learn how to live with the future, we might take a moment to look at the good that has come from the events of 2020 as well as the less edifying.

Getting to know one another, if only just a little bit better, turning our thoughts to our fellow man, if only briefly, showing respect for others, if only for a moment, must surely feature high on the list of things we will want to remember in the years to come.

Do you stand up for the national anthem? Do you think we might remember the best bits rather than the worst? Has 2020 been all bad? Write to James at james.marston@archant.co.uk

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