One of the oldest dictionaries, Merriam-Webster, has picked ‘Authentic’ as the word for 2023. According to data analysed by Merriam-Webster, ‘authentic’ saw a big uptick in searches this year and this has led the dictionary to name it the word of the year.
In our age of deepfakes, post-truths and AI, have we reached a crisis of authenticity? One of my favourite readings at Christmas is the verses from the Gospel of John, Chapter 1, that we often hear at our Carol Services. At verse 14, Jesus is described as the one who has ‘come from God, full of grace and truth’.
In recent months the World Health Organisation has launched an international commission on the problem of loneliness. It is led by the US Surgeon General, Dr Vivek Murthy, and the eleven-member board includes such people as the African Union youth envoy and the minister in charge of measures for loneliness and isolation in Japan.
The health risks of loneliness are as bad as smoking up to fifteen cigarettes a day, and even greater than those associated with obesity and physical inactivity, according to Murthy. In older adults, loneliness is associated with a 50% increased risk of developing dementia and raised levels of heart disease or stroke. But the lives of young people are also touched, with between 5% and 15% of adolescents being affected.
The WHO commission on social connection will run for three years. It comes after the Covid-19 pandemic halted social activity, increasing levels of loneliness, but also amid a new awareness of the importance of the issue.
Covid has disrupted the church-going patterns of many of us. Might I encourage us to return to worshipping together – it’s good for your health – and especially staying afterwards for a cup of tea and a blether.
Authentic. What a great word! As we seek to be authentic followers of Jesus, the one who came to us from God, may we be those that bridge the gap and reach out to others. What neighbour, friend or family member might we visit this Christmas?
Bethlehem – One star accommodation. Self catering only. Animals welcome. Cot provided.
Make room for Jesus this Christmas!