Bah, Humbug ! I have become almost immune to the innumerable cards that arrive failing to acknowledge the Nativity. Awash with Dickensian stage coaches, plum puddings, knowing snowmen and robins, bloody robins, they ignore the central fact of the festival and evince a cheerless agnosticism. Should I be celebrating Diwali or Hannukah or the January sales it would be all the same.

Local authorities remove all reference to the cradle of our culture, renaming it , ‘A Time of Gifts’, the primary gift being my bally taxes to pay for this nonsense. Po-faced headmistresses ‘reduce offence to minorities’ by replacing the Nativity Play with glib morality tales in tinsel. This does not reduce the ‘offence’ to Muslims, who love Jesus and Mary and were not offended in the first place, only to the militant atheists in the staffroom.

In the meantime the High Street is festooned with ghastly baubles and house after private house advertises its execrable taste as flashing Santas, pulsating stars and ropes of epilepsy inducing stroboscopic effects pollute the night sky and present significant hazards to unfamiliar traffic.

Nor are churches exempt from this grotesque form of diversion. Several around us, not notable for their enthusiasm for orthodox doctrine, now replace Advent signs with, ‘A Festival of Christmas Trees’. One ancient shrine I was dragged into boasted 53 flashing, garishly festooned pines all pointing to the central object of worship before the altar…..Santa’s sleigh full of presents. The shed with the unmarried mother, the doll and the livestock, traditionalists will be relieved to know, can be accessed down a side aisle behind the local operatic society’s tasteful arboreal extravaganza celebrating their recent triumphant production of ‘The Sound of Music’.

A verse of Scripture, once memorably quoted by the broadcaster Richard Dimbleby when he thought the microphone was off, keeps looping through my head. ‘Jesus wept !’ Well he might and I am inclined to join him. Salvation has been subverted by sentiment. A once great Christian culture has been reduced to a frantic celebration of its own religious and moral bankruptcy. The emptier the festival, it seems, the louder the celebration. The less we believe – the more we decorate.