Philip Gulley, Author . Harper San Francisco $12.95 (96p) ISBN 978-0-06-052012-0

Gulley's beloved Harmony series takes a festive turn with this delightful novella, featuring Quaker minister Sam Gardner and the intimate circle of eccentrics who comprise his congregation. The infuriating church elder Dale Hinshaw is up to his usual schemes, this time planning an all-out "progressive nativity scene" on Christmas Eve that will convert the heathen while turning a tidy profit for the church. Gulley's trademark humor is much in evidence, as when he muses on the irony that Dale wants to raise a "Quaker militia" to forfend any terrorist activity on Christmas Eve, or describes how the church's Christmas card list gets longer every year because even one-time visitors who drop a small check in the collection plate gain "a place in our directory in perpetuity." More extraordinary than the jesting, however, is Gulley's theological sensitivity and often profound reflections on parenting, traditions and the Christian story. (Nov.)