Bethlehem … Or A Fake Town in the Metaverse?

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“Once in Royal David’s City” is one of my favorite Christmas carols. When I was eight, my class sang it in the school Christmas concert … and I’ve loved it ever since.

David’s City is, of course, Bethlehem, the town where Jesus was born. His family traveled there from the town where they lived, Nazareth — another oft-referenced town in the Bible.

These are real places. You live in a real place too, and so do I.

But have you heard about a trend that’s happening now? The creating and purchasing of fake places. By fake places, I mean fictional places that exist only in virtual worlds … on screens. Evidently, there’s a real estate boom happening in the Metaverse.

You’ve likely already heard about the Metaverse, but if you haven’t … it’s the combination of various technologies “including virtual reality, augmented reality and video where users ‘live’ within a digital universe.” The biggest player in this emerging virtual world is “Meta,” the new name for the Facebook corporation – which Mark Zuckerburg rebranded in October 2021. 

Two thousand years ago Jesus entered this real-deal, gritty, hard-knocks world — hay and blood and the smell of manure — and yet this Christmas, we’re looking to get out of it. We’re looking to replace, or at least substantially “augment,” the physical world with an imagined one. We’re swapping our present for the counterfeit.

And it’s pricey, too. Last month an estate of more than 100 parcels within Decentraland’s Fashion Street district sold for the equivalent of about $2.5 million.

It begs the question:  why are we spending (sometimes large amounts of) money in pretend worlds, when we have a beautiful real world right here?

The answer, I think, comes with Decentraland’s tagline:  “Lose yourself in an amazing, evolving world.”

Lose yourself. It’s about escape. People have always had the impulse to escape the tough aspects of our lives; there’s nothing new about that. For centuries we have sought any number of available outlets to eject from our lives:  alcohol, drugs, over-eating, even hard-to-fault things like books and music. But in the past two decades, the possibilities of escape have exploded exponentially because of screens in their many forms. These many available outlets, and the advertising machine that promotes them, makes the landscape trickier.

And secondly, it’s about the drive we feel to become our own gods. The “meta” prefix in the word “metaverse” is Greek for “beyond”; it speaks of transcendence – the dimension of the supernatural. Step into Meta, and become your own kind of god. We love the power rush we get when we’re shaping and interacting with worlds of our own imaginings, as the Metaverse invites us to do. (We do something similar whenever we immerse ourselves in our cell phones – a mini-domain in the palm of our hand that we get to rule over, with our clicking and swiping.)

There’s nothing wrong with imagination — in fact, it’s a gift from God. And there’s nothing wrong with creativity; it’s also a gift He gives us. But we need to be careful. We don’t actually want to “lose ourselves” — anymore than we’re already lost. In fact, what we want and need is to be found.

And that’s what Christmas is actually about.

Our embodied God entering this world (in a real country, in a real town, amidst flesh-and-blood people) to find us … and love us, and bring us to our true home, which is Himself.

Let’s ditch the screens and keep our eyes wide open for that.


Susan Arico is a Connecticut-based screen coach and writer who focuses on how phone use affects our souls. She has written the guide Reset: 21 Days to a New Relationship with Your Phone. You can follow her on Instagram at @susanbarico and find her work at


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