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What are we hoping for?

THE birthday card greeting from my brother said it all: ‘Blessed are those who expect nothing for they shall not be disap­pointed.’ The envelope was empty and I was disappointed. Not even a second-hand post­al order! We of the baby boomer generation are a demanding lot.

Last September, Sir Vince Cable said he was concerned about ‘inequality and the massive unfairness particularly between generations’.

Influential beyond words

‘HE gave us our modern language,’ says Melvyn Bragg. When we meet in the offices of his TV production company in London, the broadcaster and author mentions Shakespeare, but the playwright is not the man he is talking about as the genius who reinvented English.

‘There are more than thirteen hundred references in Shakespeare to his work,’ he says. ‘The truth is, the Bibles that Shakespeare was reading or hearing may have been called the Matthew Bible or the Geneva Bible, but they were all William Tyndale.’

Perfect imperfections?

GENE editing and gene therapy have the potential to treat life-changing illnesses such as Huntington’s disease, says Dr Alexander Massmann, theologian and research associate in bioethics at the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion, in this week’s issue of The War Cry.

However, in his interview, Dr Massmann questions if treatable illnesses such as diabetes or a condition such as Down’s syndrome, which shouldn’t be thought of as an illness, should qualify for gene therapy. Should, the doctor also asks, genetic technology be used for ‘curing’ male pattern baldness?

Heard it all before

‘IF you do what you’ve always done,’ says the American motivational mogul Tony Robbins, ‘you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.’ That may not be the purest of English grammar, but it’s a wonderful truth with which to examine what we do during Advent. Advent – the last few weeks before Christmas Day – is so full of clichés, so predictable and, some might even say, vague and boring.

It's the most wonderful time of the year – seriously!

PAUL KERENSA loves Christmas. He loves it ‘quiet and candlelit, loud and floodlit’. He loves the turkey leftovers, ridiculous festive jumpers and hearing a brass band playing heart-warming carols on the street. In fact, the BBC comedy writer – whose credits include Miranda and Top Gear – loves the season so much that he decided to write a book about it. In Hark! The Biography of Christmas, Paul tells stories of Christmas past, explores some of the customs associated with Christmas present and considers what might happen in Christmases yet to come.

Many happy returns on offer

Few Bible stories have made such a last­ing impression as the one told by Jesus in Luke 15:11–32. It’s the tale of sibling rivalries, a wasted inheritance, a son who goes missing and a loving father who never gives up hope of his return.

The story is commonly known as the par­able of the prodigal son – even though the word ‘prodigal’ isn’t mentioned in it – and the phrase itself has become part of our everyday language.

Matters of the heart

‘I WENT through a really bad period in my life where I faced rejection, specifically in the area of relationships,’ Ebun Ali tells me over coffee at a hotel in Shoreditch, East London. ‘I didn’t feel adequate or worthy to be in a relationship. I didn’t feel good enough. I questioned why I felt so bad about myself. For a long time I felt as though I couldn’t talk about rejection because of the shame that comes with it.

Don't drop the baby

THE final push for Advent calendar sales will take place over the next few days before the start of the season on Friday (1 December).

This year, the calendar market has continued to target adults as well as children. Prices for some Advent calendars exceed £100, such as the £175 one that is filled with mini beauty products. Another calendar, containing 24 scented candles, will cost about £25, and £8 will buy a calendar that holds two dozen individually wrapped pieces of cheese.