Guest review by Nancy Hoch
“Whatever our religious affiliations or lack of them, we practice being the people that the season asks us to be.”
These are lines from a more than memorable little Christmas book produced by one of our own right here in Pocatello. Author Susan Swetnam of Idaho State University’s English Department has produced a number of thought-provoking books, including this one. She is a devout Catholic, and though her book deals with the season of Advent as celebrated by Catholics, much of the book will have meaning to any caring and committed Christian.
The title is “A Season of Little Sacraments: Christmas Commotion, Advent Grace.” As a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints preparing for Christmas each year, a title that would be clearer for those of my faith might be “A Season of Little Wonders: Christmas Commotion, Christmas Peace.” This slight change in meaning aside, for non-Catholics, the importance of this warmly-written book is the overall message it conveys. As readers, we can feel the approach of that special day with the author—which includes many new and exciting ways to truly celebrate that wondrous event.
The author takes us through poignant reflections in her own life, especially those dealing with the Christmases after the passing of her husband. She writes of her personal growth as she experiences greater devotion, the practicing of more patience, and the writing of a non-traditional Christmas letter. There are delightful ideas on activities such as hosting a Sunday afternoon wreath-making party with close friends and also ways she prepares for an annual Christmas gathering at her home.
There are thoughts on the simplicity Christmas lights can bring and even the act of de-cluttering her pantry. That particular day-long activity becomes symbolic of the clutter that can rob any of us of deeper meaning if we allow ourselves to over-prepare at Christmas. She shares fresh ideas on how to make, or select, truly meaningful gifts throughout the year and other thoughts that help us to truly “Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord” as it is sung each year in Handel’s magnificent oratorio, “Messiah.”
This book gives honest insights into the frustrations and temptations that can steal from us the joy of what should be the most meaningful day of the year. We are led to truly make room in our homes and in our lives—room for the celebration of the coming of the savior into mortality.
Originally published in the Idaho State Journal, 26 Nov. 2016 “Pocatello Woman’s Christmas Book Gives Insights For All”
“A Season of Little Sacraments” by Susan Swetnan is available here.