Not Without Witness: An Easter Reflection

…[A]nd then, suddenly, we come down to the resurrection of Jesus. It’s so petty, it’s so trivial, it’s so local, it’s so earth-bound, it’s so unworthy of the universe. — Richard Dawkins

Easter Sunday is the Christian’s yearly reminder that our faith is unlike any other. Where other religions traffic in the elusive and the intangible, Christianity is planted firmly in the concrete. No other religion places the stakes so high. The Apostle Paul wrote that if Christ did not rise from the dead, then our faith is vain. If this physical event did not take place at this physical moment in time, when Caiaphas was the high priest, Pilate was the governor, and Tiberius was the emperor, then we are of all men most miserable.

The mundane particularity of it all must not be lost. It marks the place where our faith is anchored. We trust not in a comforting notion or a platitude, but in the most real and solid of occurrences: a man dead, and that same man alive again.

We human beings are creatures of the tangible. We invest ourselves emotionally in what we can see, touch, and embrace. When those bonds are broken, whether through betrayal, loss, or simple loneliness, maintaining faith in things beyond our grasp does not come easily to us. This is why it’s not enough to encourage a doubting friend by saying, “You just need to believe harder.” We must be prepared to answer the question, “Why should I?” Yet we have the answer. Indeed, we have the best possible answer. The gospel is a record of a real moment in real time, preserved and handed down from generation to generation. On some days we feel like believing it. Other days, we may not. It doesn’t matter. The record remains, an ever-fixed mark.

Christian, ask yourself not what you feel, but what you know. Perhaps your pastor had a profound moral failing, and perhaps the church board turned a blind eye. You feel betrayed, but what do you know? Perhaps you are caught in a vicious cycle of temptation. You feel despairing, but what do you know? Perhaps you simply can’t sense God’s presence like you used to. You feel isolated, but what do you know?

This is where our hope is found: It is found in the still-empty tomb of the One who who did not leave himself without witness. In the words of the Apostle John, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched — this we proclaim concerning the Word of life.”

This Easter week, let us encourage ourselves and each other with this great good news: that while in this world we will have trouble, Christ has overcome the world.

We Call This Friday Good

The wounded surgeon plies the steel
That questions the distempered part;
Beneath the bleeding hands we feel
The sharp compassion of the healer’s art
Resolving the enigma of the fever chart.

Our only health is the disease
If we obey the dying nurse
Whose constant care is not to please
But to remind of our, and Adam’s curse,
And that, to be restored, our sickness must grow worse.

The whole earth is our hospital
Endowed by the ruined millionaire,
Wherein, if we do well, we shall
Die of the absolute paternal care
That will not leave us, but prevents us everywhere.

The chill ascends from feet to knees,
The fever sings in mental wires.
If to be warmed, then I must freeze
And quake in frigid purgatorial fires
Of which the flame is roses, and the smoke is briars.

The dripping blood our only drink,
The bloody flesh our only food:
In spite of which we like to think
That we are sound, substantial flesh and blood—
Again, in spite of that, we call this Friday good.

— T. S. Eliot, “East Coker”

The Bitter-Sweetness of “White Christmas”

Christmas greetings! Thank  you for your patience as this blog has gone semi-dormant this past semester. I have hopes that next semester will be less back-breaking, and I’ll be able to resume writing about all my favorite things. For the immediate future, I’m hoping to knock out some mini-reviews for the backlog of CDs I wasn’t able to listen to properly this semester. (Apologies to any record labels and artists who’ve been patiently waiting for my feedback.) Also, Little Sister is slated to make a guest appearance and lend her thoughts on the new Star Wars movie (she seems to have been a popular guest in the past, so I’ll not mess with success!) In addition, I’ve been asked to write a piece about the enduring popularity of Star Wars for Summit magazine, so stay tuned for a link to that. It still hasn’t quite sunk in that I’m getting paid to write about Star Wars. Merry Christmas to me. (I guess even worldview organizations feel like just having fun once in a while.) Finally, I’m putting together a Top 5 list of 2015 films and hope to have that posted soon.

But, for now, I want to write some reflections on the popular carol “White Christmas,” sparked by some backstory I had never heard until yesterday.

Continue reading “The Bitter-Sweetness of “White Christmas””

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Have some Irish music.

Well, I was going to publish a CD review today, but it didn’t happen. So on this Saint Paddy’s Day, enjoy this fine live performance of a love letter to Dublin: “Rare Auld Times.” Brian Dunphy of the High Kings dedicates it to his father, who had passed away recently at the time of this recording. It’s a stellar vocal, and I love the way they just strum away with abandon on the guitar and banjo sorry, not a banjo as I’m looking more closely at it. Stringed something-something. Anyway, this is the kind of spirited, rough-hewn music-making I love. I love the guy in blue just grinning and leaning back behind them in the background like, “Yep. Way to do it!”

Ring a ring a rosy

As the light declines

I remember Dublin City

In the rare auld times…

Keith Getty on Christmas Carols

Music pastors, take note!

These are the real “crossover” songs of Christian music—appearing in movies, musicals, television shows, commercials, novels, and radio charts; affecting the education of countless generations; sung more frequently and knowingly and passionately in the public square than any modern song likely ever will [be sung].


For every 1 car that drives into your church 99 drive past—and I bet almost all love Christmas music.

Read more here.

O Come, O Come Emmanuel

Most people sing this carol during Christmastime, but technically it’s an Advent carol. For this reason, I am featuring it for the first week of Advent instead of waiting to add it to my “essential tracks of Christmas” (and yes, there are more of those on the way, as soon as I finish out this bone-crusher of a semester). There are many versions of this, but my absolute favorite is entirely instrumental. The artist is Casting Crowns, in an unexpectedly lovely turn from Melodee Devevo on the violin. Basically, forget everything you think you know about how Casting Crowns’ music sounds, and imagine something more like a set piece from Fiddler On the Roof. That’s a little closer. Enjoy this effective montage with The Nativity (not made by me, I would have fixed the aspect ratio first!)

The Parting Glass: A Veterans’ Day Toast

To the boys of Pointe du Hoc, a toast. To the men who took the cliffs.

To the men who slogged through mud and blood, who gathered up and buried the remains of worthy comrades, a toast.

To the flyer boys who piloted their ships towards danger, laughing it to scorn, a toast.

To the ones who went to tend the wounded under fire, a toast.

To the one who waited patiently for the day when he would come home running to the arms of his best girl, a toast. To the one whose sweetheart couldn’t wait, a toast.

To the 17-year-old who hit the beach with ashen face and trembling knees, yet crawled towards the sound of death, a toast.

To all fathers, sons and brothers who have fought and bled on a distant shore, in a war they may or may not have understood.

To the fathers, sons and brothers who still fight and bleed on a distant shore, in wars they may still not understand.

To all those who have left us as boys and come back as men, I raise my glass and softly call: “Goodnight. And joy be with you all.”