If faith can be said to have fashions, then it has been worn loosely for several seasons. The Christian belief that underlies the great religious paintings of the Renaissance is for many people an alien concept: it can appear, to modern eyes, too structured, too certain, too sentimental. At this time of year in particular, surrounded by painted-by-the-yard Nativities, the faith that brought them into being seems as distant as the age in which they were created.
Since last Christmas, John and Edie have been watching their tree, which they keep outside, with the mixture of helplessness and pride familiar to mothers of sons. They first decided to have a tree that was to enjoy a full life, roots and all, in its pot, five years before.
'I thought it might have happened, and it has,' said John, from behind the tree, more accurately from within it, which he was attempting to fit through their front door.
Saddam Hussein's mountain of documents now awaiting analysis by UN experts has temporarily flummoxed those in hot pursuit. It has thus bought a little more time before a final reckoning is visited upon him. He is playing a weak hand with customary tactical adroitness.
But the underlying realities have not changed. Despite seasonal injunctions to moderation by respected generals, ambassadors and bishops here, we should not allow ourselves to fall prey to the liberal illusion that, so long as no clear or present danger from Iraq is seen to threaten directly the national security of the UK or the US, international inaction is a cost-free option.
THERE is something eerie, and a little sinister, about the rise of the Campbell-Millars, as Alastair Campbell and his longstanding partner, Fiona Millar, are known in north London. Their rise started in the 1980s when they were young, unknown and ambitious. They ingratiated themselves with Neil and Glenys Kinnock: helping with the shopping and being on hand at a moment's notice. In due course, the Kinnocks and the Campbell-Millars went on holiday together, and were in and out of each other's houses.