Counterfeit

She is even better in person, I think.

Better than The Crown.

“For nearly 70 years I have kept a tradition of speaking to you at Christmas,” she begins—and we are captivated.

She sits regal and poised behind the stately antique desk: a beacon of constancy and hope. An imposing yet festive Christmas tree shimmers in the background. Pictures of Camilla and Charles, William and Kate, and a beloved corgi frame the foreground as her words flow:

“If there is a theme to my message today, it is trust. Trust in what is genuine and what is not.”

The camera pans to an exquisite, gold-winged porcelain angel dangling from the tree. It is wearing a mask.

Elegant, in a 2020 sort of way . . .

And then, in an unexpected pivot, she strays off-script:

“2020 has been a challenging year for us all.”

HM, keeping it real!

“A year when most of you, thanks to toilet roll shortages, have finally understood how it feels to have a predicament on the throne.”

A little too real.

Before we can digest this uncharacteristic vulnerability, England’s longest-reigning monarch summits her desk and proceeds to bust a move. A disco ball descends as confetti tumbles from the rafters. A Corgi stands dumbfounded in a nearby hallway.

We should have known better. Only an imposter would keep a picture of Camilla on her desk. The corgi? Debatable.   

***

“Just got a call for 9:20 tomorrow. Hurray!”

My heart leaps as his text flies in, signaling that my parents’ eternal wait for a vaccine is over. Hope lingers between the lines in my dad’s message: the promise of potential liberation from pandemic prison. For them at least.

I’ve lived in self-imposed house arrest for almost a year now—a decision fueled by pre-existing conditions, a desire to do my part, and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I miss trekking the foothills with my hiking partner.

Hope remains ever-elusive . . .

Date night with my husband consists of snoring on the couch with the gentle lulls of Anderson Cooper in the background. Travel now translates to the occasional quest for curbside takeout. Memories of corporate church worship and hugs from someone who doesn’t share my last name are hazy at best.

. . . seemingly close enough to touch, but still painfully out of reach.


We’ve all felt the losses serving out our respective COVID-19 sentences. These voids can’t and won’t be filled no matter how many Zoom meetings, texts, or ice cream scoops we consume (stupid Pandemic-20). Hope remains ever-elusive: For weeks and months it’s shimmered from afar like a disco ball on the horizon: seemingly close enough to touch, but still painfully out of reach.

But not today! Today for me it’s tangible—in the form of a vaccine-miracle that is almost within our grasp: dancing right in front of me like a queen on her desk.

Almost.

***

They were reaching through the bars for it too, these disciples sitting temple-side. This miracle-man kindled hope for Israel, unparalleled in the dark days of Roman occupation. He’d walked on storm waters and fed bread to thousands. But to consume the “Bread of Life,” his very flesh and blood? This was beyond the confounding manna of their forefathers. And like their forefathers, they grumbled.

Cannibalism crossed a line. And how about some saber-rattling instead?

In a single reply, Jesus exposed their counterfeit hope: “Does this cause you to stumble? What then if you see the Son of Man ascending to where He was before? It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.” (John 6:61-63)

There was nothing left but to believe in this One with unbelievable words.

So they walked away.

Almost all of them.

***

“Surely, life will be better by May,” I tell my kids (and myself) as they gaze into their screens-turned-school. “We’re almost there!”

“By June—once we’ve all sheltered-in-place!”

“July!” after our flights are canceled.

“By August!” as school toggles from in-person to online.

With each calendar turn, the hope goalpost inches further and further back.

My daughter stops believing me.

“They’ll be a vaccine! Probably by Christmas!”

My son resigns himself to full-time screen school.

It’s January, and I reach through the bars again and try grasp even a sliver of hope. My mind circles back to:

May. Surely by May.

I am silent.

Dare I speak of the “when” I don’t believe in anymore?

Month after month, these layers of counterfeit confidence were stripped away—like Band-Aids on a wound that needs desperately JUST to breath. It’s a painful severing of imposters.

But buried here beneath this final facade, lies

hope.

Raw and real.

There is nothing left, but to believe in the One with unbelievable words.

Hope, it turns out, depends not on if or when, but on Who.

***

“You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asks the twelve that remained.

Simon Peter answers him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:67-69)

***

Search long enough, and you’ll find it: the authentic Queen’s Christmas speech. She begins beautifully:

“Every year we herald the coming of Christmas by turning on the lights. And light does more than create a festive mood. Light brings hope.”

 “For Christians,” she adds, “Jesus is the Light of the World.”

In stark contrast, deepfake Queen Elizabeth descends from her disco-desk, clasps her smart phone, and concludes:

“So much of our world today comes to us through these screens. Which brings me back to that questions of trust, of whether what we see and hear is always as it seems.”

A wholehearted Christmas wish spills from her lips while static pulses reveal a 40-something imposter with a buzz cut, who matter-of-factly requests a cup of tea.  

 

Image Credit: klimkin from Pixabay

Nichole Woo
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