Sock stuffers

Published December 1, 1999

The idea of the Christmas sock- stuffer is usually something light, even trivial. The heading may therefore be inappropriate, because these books are anything but trivial. Each rates a full review in its own right; each would make a great gift.

People Behind the Peace is the story of Christians who helped create the setting in which the politicians were able to build a framework for reconciliation in Northern Ireland. The first problem was, how can we bring the two parties together? With the first accomplished, the second, how can they live together? is still unanswered. After tracing the history of the troubles in Northern Ireland, the book centres the start of the peace process around forgiveness and reconciliation in public life. This is the story of the pivotal role of three residential communities, Presbyterian, Anglican and Roman Catholic, in developing a context for peace. A very happy offering for the birthday of He who gave the world its best ever peace plan.

[pullquote]Conversations in Time is the imaginary record of conversations with men and women of the Bible. While the device is not new, the author’s imaginative treatment lends a freshness and immediacy: we do not go back in time to meet these people, they come to us, in surprising settings. Caspar, the first Wise Man of the Epiphany, is a key speaker at a convention of astronomers. Ruth is at a church workshop on immigration and refugees. And John drops in to tell how he gropes for the right words to describe Jesus, and finds them in those we use today for the Christmas Gospel, “the word was made flesh.” Each conversation reveals the motives, struggles, often-complex relationships with God of people of the Bible who turn out to be very much like us.

Sources of Strength offers a selection of 52 Bible studies by former U.S. president Jimmy Carter, first delivered to adult Sunday School classes mostly in his home congregation of Maranatha Baptist Church in Plains, Ga. Carter made no apologies for being a “born again” Christian, though he was often vilified for it. This book shows that “born again” need not mean some kind of cracker-barrel fundamentalist. These talks are those of a thoughtful student of the Bible trying to apply his Christian faith to real life. His words on forgiveness ? based on a bitter experience in his own life, and the Christian’s relationship to the state, are powerful indeed, as is his exposition of John’s Christmas Gospel.


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