Thursday, December 11, 2003
A beautiful Christmas book with a vital message...
I just interviewed Grace Johnson, an author and playwright who happens to live right here in my hometown.
Grace has come out with a wonderful book called "The Candle in the Window." It's based on a short story by Leo Tolstoy, "Where Love Is, There God is Also"...and the simple theme of the book, as it was in the story, is Christ's teaching that "whatever you did for one of the least of these, you did for me."
The book is richly, gorgeously illustrated by Newbery Honor Award-winning illustrator Mark Elliott.
Grace tells me: "Having read the story and seen how many friends...teacher friends that I knew...that liked to read that every year to their children, I never saw it illustrated in any way...I wanted to write something that was done in a certain kind of lighthearted way that would be a happy book to read at Christmas
and yet would hit the sadness that I think so many people feel (during the Christmas season.) Because, you're supposed to be so happy, you're supposed to be so jolly, and that is the time that so many people are more aware than others of what they've lost: a family member's death, or a husband leaving them, or whatever it is. I just think we would be amazed at looking at a whole throng of people, how many of them have sadness, and I like to address that."
Grace also wanted to get the "least of these" message across to readers: "I find myself thinking, 'What am I doing that's directly for Christ?' I don't think sending money off to missionaries that I hardly know or care about, or another gift for Aunt Susie who doesn't need a thing...but I'm always reminded of my son who as an adult worked for a time in a facility that was for very severely developmentally challenged adults. These adults wore diapers, and it was my son's job to change them...and he said the only way he could get through it was reminding himself that he was doing it for Christ."
The story closes with a lovely ancient candle prayer, which Grace found years ago:
"Lord Jesus, thou whose birth we celebrate, we have lit our candle in the presence of each other and the holy angels. Kindle in our hearts thy flame of love, that day shall break and shadows flee away. Amen."
The main character, Gunther, discovers that he has shown kindness and compassion "to the least of these," and thus to Christ...and has been visited by angels:
"Slowly he shook his head in wonder. 'We have lit our candle, Lord Jesus, and you came!'
"He knelt beside the window. 'Kindle in my heart thy flame of love, that day shall break and shadows flee away,' he murmured softly.
"And Gunther looked into his heart and knew that it was so."
As I said, a beautiful book with a meaningful message.
"The Candle in the Window" is written by Grace Johnson and illustrated by Mark Elliott. It's available through www.bakerbooks.com and www.amazon.com, or your local Christian bookstore. I think it would make a lovely gift for a special child on your list, or anyone who loves wonderful books.
Apparently Evie is still pretty popular!
Since I noticed that a lot of web-surfers have been ending up on my blog or my website by searching for a reference I made to Christian singer Evie Tornquist-Karlsson, I decided to put more info about Evie on my site's page about my favorite Christmas music.
Most of the seekers seem to want the lyrics to "Come On, Ring Those Bells," so here also is a link to the lyrics and guitar tabs for that song.
By the way, Evie is still going strong and even touring a bit. She appeared with Mark Lowry at a concert last year for Radio 91, and was as lovely as ever. Apparently she and her husband Pelle Karlsson and their family are a "spokesfamily" for the Sky Angel Christian TV network, or were at one point.
There you go. Hope I've brightened up the season a bit for Evie fans! :)