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Short notices

25 November 2016

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TIMOTHY KELLER, the Presbyterian pastor and popular author, has written a short hardback gift book that covers a great deal of ground: Hidden Christmas: The surprising truth behind the birth of Christ (Hodder & Stoughton, £12.99 (£11.70); 978-1-473-64258-4). Keller, noticing how the New York stores now play “Have a Holly, Jolly Christmas” rather than “Joy to the World”, seeks to expound the Good News of the season biblically. His references to the New York Times, his life in the US, and Hollywood films will easily translate to the UK. He begins with a light dawning, continues with figures in the story, and concludes with “The Doctrine of Christmas”, where he emphasises “the most simple and ordinary act of humble asking”.

With academic rather than homiletic content, Simon Yarrow’s The Saints: A short history is a pocket hardback with plenty of well-written text but slightly disappointing black-and-white photos. One chapter is on the Virgin Mary; others cover the Early Church, the Middle Ages, gender, hagiography, “Globalizing Sanctity”, and the modern period (with an emphasis on Roman canonisation practice up to Pope Francis). There are an index, suggestions for further reading, and Diarmaid McCulloch’s endorsement (OUP, £10.99 (£9.90); 978-0-19-878438-8).

Pause for Thought is a collection of brief reflections on modern life originally broadcast in the mornings on Radio 2. In a foreword, the DJs Chris Evans and Vanessa Feltz testify to the value and popularity of this strand (Watkins, £12.99 (£11.70); 978-1-78028-980-9). Contributors include Richard Coles, Kate Bottley, Joanna Jepson, Pam Rhodes, Julia Neuberger, Paul Kerensa, Malcolm Doney, Mike Starkey, and many others. The scrapbookish design includes listeners’ photos of “wow” moments, sent in to an online gallery.

A traditional hardback from Watkins is Prayer for the Day, Volume II: More reflections for daily inspiration, originally broadcast in the early mornings on Radio 4. Contributors (brief biographies are given) are mainly but not exclusively Christian. They include Sheila Watson, Richard Chartres, Barry Morgan, Janet Wootton, David Chillingworth, Tina Beattie, Joe Aldred, and Tom Wright — and some overlap with Pause for Thought. There are a reflection and a prayer for each day of the calendar year, plus James Jones’s foreword (£12.99 (£11.70); 978-1-78028-966-3).

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