At the end of a tough year, this is not the Christmas we hoped for. We’ve all had to adjust our plans. Much that we have been looking forward to cannot happen and that is a disappointment. In living rooms all over the Netherlands, chairs remain empty, while we would have been more than happy to bring in extra chairs. My heart goes out to all those people whose lives have been turned upside down. People with a dream that has broken down. Entrepreneurs who see their healthy business capsize. People who feel lonely and don’t know where to turn. Bottomless is the grief of everyone who has lost a loved one – through COVID or whatever cause – and feels that they were not able to say goodbye properly. We humans cannot live without a loving look or an embrace. Forced distance is against our human nature. I would like to thank everyone who has spent the last few months trying to comply with the measures through trial and error. And everyone who is committed in any way to help us through this crisis or cooperate in making vaccines safely available. The corona pandemic awakened the very best in us.
- Sense of responsibility. Compassion. Camaraderie. Helpfulness. Solidarity.
- It also confronted us with the sharp and uncomfortable sides of ourselves and society.
- Moments of impatience and anxiety. Everyone will recognize it. They are understandable feelings.
- You finally want your trusted life back. And then there is the uncertainty. We can’t handle that very well. Sometimes it feels like uncertainty is worse than a gloomy perspective. We almost automatically assume that everything in life can be controlled. But this? This is beyond our grasp. Those who are uncertain can look to firm ideas, images and standpoints. After all, by choosing a firm position, you make the world clear again.
- We live in a time when you seem to be expected to take a stand. Pro or con. Friend or enemy. We or them. But what if you just don’t know? If you doubt? Or sometimes change your mind? Perhaps you do not feel at home with firm positions at all. You may find it annoying to have to take sides all the time, and you may be busy with very different things in your heart than the issues that are so fiercely debated every day. You my be tired of excitement, suspicion, and fanaticism. Tired of the manic mind machine. You may be quietly craving a little mutual understanding. Relaxation. ordinary kindness. And you think: I am apparently an outsider. Let me reassure you: you are not. You are indispensable. The soft voices also deserve to be heard.
- Sharp debates about outspoken views or radical ideas are part a free society. They are necessary and take us further. Those who seek guidance in those views or ideas should not be excluded. But the hallmark of a free society is precisely that there is room for nuance. For reason and gentleness. For curiosity and research. For irony and self-perspective – always the best medicine for a pent-up mood. And for forgiveness. An almost old-fashioned concept that plays a major role in the bible. And that can be beneficial in this day and age.
- We humans were not created to hate each other. A country where people approach each other with a little love is a country where people can feel at home, even in times of great uncertainty. The apostle Paul put it very nicely: ‘Love is patient and kind. It knows no envy, no conceit, no complacency. It is neither rude nor selfish, it is not easily angered and keeps no record of wrongs, it does not delight in evil but rejoices in the truth.’
- Christmas is traditionally the festival of the returning light after the darkest period of the year. We can rely on that in all uncertainty. Have patience. The sun will return. The light will return. ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’ will be played again. We will be able to gather and hug each other again. I wish you all – wherever you are and whatever your personal circumstances – a blessed Christmas