The older I get, the more reflective I become – and by that I mean that I look back to things that have happened, and think about what might have been different, if only…

Looking back over 2021, like most people, I enjoyed the gradual restoration of freedom as people were able to mix more freely and places were open to workers and to visitors in a way that had been denied us for much of 2020.

We spoke easily of ‘getting back to normal’, implying that this meant going back to things as they were before March 2020.

In truth though, we didn’t go back to ‘normal’ for we can never recreate the past. Things did change – people had died, others were (and still are) wary of mixing in large groups, businesses had closed and our world somehow looked different.

Hygiene precautions remained as good advice and, in short, many of us thought more seriously about what we were doing and why.

Just as the World War Two poster asked the question ‘Is your journey really necessary?’, so we asked the same about meetings, social events and travel; do we really need or want to do it?

Writing this article just five days before Christmas, I, like many others, am fully expecting more changes to be introduced in response to the very worrying spread of the omicron variant of Covid19.

As a person of faith, I am as wary and concerned about the impact of this new strain as anyone else, and my faith does not try to supply me with easy answers. What it does give me though, is hope.

For Christians, Christmas marks that time when God made himself known to the world through the birth of his Son Jesus Christ.

The teachings of Jesus brought many things, including hope for a better future, and it’s that hope that I pray we will take with us into 2022.

We realise that we have no idea what the future holds but we can be thankful that whatever shape it takes, there is that genuine desire in Bolton to give of our best in caring for each other.