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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Big 'little books'

They're just right for Advent nights

I've never quite recovered from attending a lecture by one of my favorite writers, Annie Dillard, at which she referred to her short nature classics as "just little books." Dillard was moving then in the direction of big novels. But "little books" can play important roles in people's lives. For this season of Advent and Christmas, I want to call your attention to several recent little books containing simple yet big messages.

Loyola Press just released Momma's Enchanted Supper ... and Other Stories for the Long Evenings of Advent by Carol DeChant (1999; cloth, $17.95). The author, a public relations executive, grew up in a "mixed" (Protestant/Catholic) family in the Iowa of the 1940s and 50s. Accompanying Advent Scriptures, she tells stories of her colorful relatives. For example, for the first Friday (Isaiah 29:19-20), she writes about "stayers," "leave takers" and a sense of place.

The 1982 simple verse narrative A Cup of Christmas Tea by Tom Hegg, with homey drawings by Warren Hanson, has become a holiday favorite. Now the two creators (and the same publisher, Waldman House) have followed up with A Memory of Christmas Tea (1999; cloth, $12.95). The same — but older — narrator is shocked out of his busyness into recalling the true grace of the Christmas visits he used to share with his great-aunt.

Readers have suggested that I comment on Christian Acts of Kindness, the latest in the Random Acts of Kindness series published by the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation (1999; paper, $11.95). The book describes the remarkable effects of simple unplanned acts taken by unassuming individuals. The book's immediacy, and thus its special value, comes from the very "ordinariness" of the acts described.

These little books all use storytelling to make their points. They encourage reflection on — and creation of — our own stories. Why not end the millennium by starting a family Advent journal to be continued into the next?


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