In fact, I'll be doing it even though I'm not you.
It's a song cycle written by Andrew Peterson, and Christmas is at its heart. Take another look at "the Christmas story" you thought you knew so well.
God bless your quiet reflection on the old, old story of Redemption. May it never lose its luster to you.
I broke out the cookie cutters and lard earlier this week and whipped up a big batch of cookies for a cookie exchange and a few gifts. The eye chart was for my boss. He's an optometrist, in case that's not obvious. In fact, that's him in the upper left corner. The resemblance is pretty remarkable if I do say so myself. But then I have an eye for that sort of thing (more optical humor).
However, I just sent an e-mail to Vladimir Putin, Prime Minister of Russia. It was mostly copied-and-pasted from a suggested letter I found online. It begins:
It has been sixty years since Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat who saved tens of thousands during World War II was captured by the Soviet army. His fate is still unknown. One thing is certain - he is still in your country.
To my shame, a few weeks ago, I didn't know the name Raoul Wallenberg. Reading his biography by Kati Marton changed that forever. Upon completing the book last night, I felt compelled to do something--hence the note addressed to the Kremlin.
Raoul Wallenberg led a fascinating life. The son of Sweden's equivalent of the Rockefellers, he studied in America, travelled the world--and then found his calling as savior of the beleaguered Jews of Budapest. Commissioned by neutral Sweden and the U.S., he moved to Hungary's capital city near the end of World War II, and began the seemingly-impossible task of pulling Jewish men, women, and children from the deadly jaws of Adolf Eichmann and the Third Reich. He came up with a brilliant system of issuing Swedish "passports" to thousands of Budapest Jews. They were essentially worthless, but he and his staff distributed them with such bold confidence that the occupying Nazis were set back on their heels in confused hesitation. Thus he bought precious time as the Jews waited for the Allied liberation of their city.
Whenever a pogrom was organized, whenever another batch of starving Jews were rounded up for a march to the labor camps, whenever they were lined up along the Danube to be shot and drowned, the Swede would show up. In his politely firm and quietly confident manner, he would elbow past the Nazi soldiers and announce, "I am Wallenberg." And a ripple of hope would move through the masses of slump-shouldered people with ragged stars of David sewn to their thin coats. Many of them would get to go home that night, clutching their "passports". One more hellish day had been survived, thanks to Wallenberg.
There were assassination attempts, there were threatening letters from Nazi officials, there were exhausting weeks and months on end with little sleep. Perhaps worst of all there was the constant knowledge that he couldn't possibly save everyone that needed him. But Wallenberg never seemed to waver. While much of the world turned a blind eye to Hitler's atrocities, Wallenberg did something about it.
Yes, Raoul Wallenberg's remarkable life perhaps can only be surpassed by the tragic mystery of his death. Russia's "liberation" of Hungary in 1945 was just a violent transfer of power from one totalitarian regime to another. Instead of being treated like the hero that he was, Wallenberg was taken prisoner by the Red Army and transported to Moscow, under the accusation that he was a spy for the capitalist West. He was never to be seen a free man again.
The Gulag was a barely-survivable prison system at its best, but Wallenberg was treated even sterner than the usual prisoner. He was a pawn the Russians could perhaps use as future leverage with their enemies. Solitary confinement was the rule, therefore, likely with frequent interrogations and torture sessions. He was denied a trial, forbidden any communication with his family or the outside world, refused anything close to proper nutrition or hygiene.
It is undisputed that Wallenberg endured such conditions for at least two years. Beyond that, his tracks are hard to trace. Both Sweden and America were hesitant to confront Russia about the mistreatment of their diplomat. The Cold War was settling in; Stalin, and then his successor Khrushchev, were feared. Thus months turned into years and years into decades, with no real pressure put on Russia to explain the disappearance of Raoul Wallenberg.
When the Kremlin was finally forced to give an explanation, they produced a document stating Wallenberg died of cardiac arrest in prison in 1947 and his body was cremated. Why, then, do Gulag survivors report brief encounters with a Swedish diplomat named Wallenberg--as late as the mid-1970s? In fact, there is the very slimmest of possibilities he is still alive today, tucked away in some forlorn cell. He would now be 97 years old.
The Kremlin knows what really happened to Raoul Wallenberg. Or, at least they could find out; there are records somewhere. At this point, the motive is not to place blame, but to bring home a hero, to lay him to rest properly. Shouldn't his story be told? Shouldn't his life be honored and his death memorialized?
Words from a Budapest monument to Wallenberg (stolen before it could be unveiled, and never replaced): "This monument is our silent and eternal gratitude to him and should always remind us of his eternally lasting humanity in an inhuman period."
That is why I have joined the other estimated 20,000 who have sent messages to Vladimir Putin. You can, too.
Learn more about Raoul Wallenberg here.
So what was it about today's program that compelled me to fire off an excited e-mail which he read on the air a few minutes later?
The Statler Brothers.
Of course, you can always listen live to future programs on KEYY.
Forget the fiction stacks; truth is stranger
On the biography shelves.
Here strange bedfellows, ironic twists,
Are wrought by the English alphabet.
One can only imagine the conversations
Between neighbors Brad Pitt and Pius XII,
Steve Jobs and Joan of Arc,
Leonardo DiCaprio and Dickens.
Beethoven, if he were not deaf,
Would have two ears-full of Zionism,
Sandwiched as he is between
Menachem Begin and Ben-Gurion.
Houdini lends some tardy wisdom
To Sam Houston regarding the Alamo.
It was the perfect chance, he says,
For a disappearing act.
Irving Berlin and Leonard Bernstein
Swap conducting stories
While Yogi Berra sagely inserts:
"It ain't over till the fat lady sings."
Keeping up with the Joneses
Is no small task, what with
Marion's and Smarty's races,
And George's and John Paul's songs.
Lance, Louis and Neil hold a strong arm contest.
It takes muscle to cycle 2,000 miles, yes,
But also to make that trumpet sing,
And to plant a flag in the moon's surface.
The Jackson boys (Bo and Andrew,
Alan and Michael, Peter and Stonewall)
Spend quiet nights researching genealogy,
And find their common ancestor climbed a beanstalk.
All that I love about the law, I love about Christ to an exponentially greater degree. My delight in the law feeds directly into a delight in Christ. In a manner of speaking, Christ has taken over the place of the law for me, in the fullest, most forgiving, and most enabling sense. He himself has become my law insofar as reflecting His person and character has become my rule of life. This “law of Christ” (take that as apposition) has displaced the law of commandments and rendered them inoperative, not by canceling them, but by fulfilling them and enabling the righteousness to which they point.
In sum, I cannot despise God’s law because it offers a preliminary (if somewhat obscure) picture of Christ. I love the law for His sake. At the same time, to be fascinated with the picture rather than the person would not honor either one. Christ offers me the beauties of the law without its terrors because He has endured its terrors for me. Ultimately, He is my law (not as a different law, but as the fulfillment of all ). As the Holy Spirit transforms my character to resemble His, I hope for my practice to take on the majestic contours of a life that truly honors the law.
"It was on this day in 1862 that President Abraham Lincoln signed the Homestead Act. Settlers who paid a filing fee of 10 dollars and agreed to live on a piece of land for at least five consecutive years were given 160 acres for free. By 1900, homesteaders had filed 600,000 claims for 80 million acres. Willa Cather's parents set out to homestead in Nebraska, Laura Ingalls Wilder's parents in South Dakota, Lawrence Welk's family in North Dakota, and George Washington Carver in Kansas."
The gospel is not primarily about the amelioration of social, economic, cultural, or environmental evils. It may entail these things, but it is about the forgiveness of personal sins, of individual transgressions of divine law. Because God cannot overlook our sins, He has provided a substitute to bear His wrath in our place. Therefore, the gospel affirms that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen of many witnesses. [See I Corinthians 5:1-7]
The gospel deals with historical events: the death of Jesus on the cross, and the subsequent resurrection of His body from the tomb. The gospel is not an ethical code, a moral philosophy, a liturgical ceremony, or a system for self-improvement. Rather, it deals with historical events, real happenings that occurred in space and time.
The gospel, however, does not merely narrate these events. It explains them, and the explanation is what makes the difference. That Jesus died on the cross, by itself, is not even a particularly interesting fact. Thousands died on Roman crosses whose names we do not care to know. What matters is not merely that Christ died, but that He died for our sins. When this explanation is attached to the event, it constitutes a doctrine.
The same is true of Jesus’ resurrection. That a corpse might be resuscitated is certainly a scientific curiosity, but not necessarily a matter of any spiritual interest. What grips us about Jesus’ resurrection is that “Christ is risen from the dead and become the firstfruits of them that slept.” We understand that “since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead.” With Paul we affirm that “as in Adam all die, so in Christ shall all be made alive.” Because of Jesus’ resurrection, we have confidence that “the last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.” These affirmations explain the significance of Christ’s resurrection. Attached to the event of Christ’s resurrection, they are doctrine.
The foregoing implies that the gospel is irreducibly doctrinal. Without doctrine, we have no gospel. In some sense, doctrine does save, because the gospel itself is doctrinal.
Moreover, the doctrines do more than simply repeat the core affirmations of the death of Christ for our sins and His resurrection from the dead. The proposition, “Christ died for our sins,” implies that we had sins, that eternal judgment for sins is approaching, that our sins required condemnation, that we could not deliver ourselves from that condemnation. The same proposition implies that Christ was a qualified sin bearer, which implies both His deity and His humanity, which in turn necessitates the virgin birth. The fact that we know these things “according to the Scriptures” implies both the authority and the veracity of the written Word of God.
These doctrines [...] are essential to the gospel. [They] must be guarded as a precious heritage.
Our Lord [...] was never suspicious, never bitter, never in despair about any man, because He put God first in trust; He trusted absolutely in what God's grace could do for any man. If I put my trust in human beings first, I will end in despairing of everyone; I will become bitter, because I have insisted on man being what no man can ever be--absolutely right. Never trust anything but the grace of God in yourself or in anyone else.
What is generally overlooked is that truth as set forth in the Christian Scriptures is a moral thing; it is not addressed to the intellect only, but to the will also. It addresses itself to the total man, and its obligations cannot be discharged by grasping it mentally. Truth engages the citadel of the human heart and is not satisfied until it has conquered everything there. The will must come forth and surrender its sword. It must stand at attention to receive orders, and those orders it must joyfully obey. Short of this any knowledge of Christian truth is inadequate and unavailing.