At a traditional time of goodwill, this year's seasonal utterances from pulpit and throne reflected a sombre and often pessimistic mood, punctuated with flashes of anger and recrimination towards those who had, or might, exploit others' woes for their own advantage.
As often, some of the strongest words came from the Archbishop of York, who lambasted bankers for pursuing "ruthless gain". His Manchester colleague was close behind, and the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster expressed "shock" at the way some of those at the heart of the financial system had behaved. The Archbishop of Canterbury and the Queen added their voices to the general sense of anxiety. For once, Channel 4's "alternative" message – given this year by the president of Iran – was more on message than off. If Mahmoud Ahmedinejad can't find much worse to say about the state of the Western world than our own church leaders, perhaps there is hope for global understanding after all.