The Nativity Story’s Christmas card tableau evokes every nativity performance we have ever seen. But there is no triteness, sentimentality or forced piety in it because we have met this couple in the grimy reality of their village, in the crowded streets of Jerusalem and on the rocky paths to Bethlehem. We know that they are carrying out a difficult assignment, and that their hardest work is still ahead: they have to raise this infant to adulthood. Along with the familiar, The Nativity Story delivers unexpected moments that inform and inspire.
As I write these words, the season’s first named storm—Alberto—is developing in the Caribbean. We’re now in what everyone refers to as hurricane season, which is joining winter, spring, summer, autumn, Christmas and football as a fixture on the calendar. (It probably has a brighter future than winter.)A few years ago, words like these would have been scoffed at by most mainstream Americans, treated as the unlikely emanations of radical greens. (Trust me on that.) But within the past year or so the tide has turned. Katrina had something to do with that. So did Al Gore.