U. A. Fanthorpe had the practice of writing a Christmas poem to include in her cards to friends. They were short, unsentimental, often with an element of humour, and often with a fresh look at the familiar story – able to give a kind of a jolt to the reader to think again, to look again.

This was the moment when Before

Turned into After, and the future’s

Uninvented timekeepers presented arms.

This was the moment when nothing

Happened. Only a dull peace

Sprawled boringly over the earth.

This was the moment when even energetic Romans

Could find nothing better to do

Than counting heads in remote provinces.

And this was the moment

When a few farm workers and three

Members of an obscure Persian sect

Walked haphazard by starlight straight

Into the kingdom of heaven.