* TOP ARTICLE IN THIS CATEGORY FOR 2010:
1/PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE: “More people turning to spiritual [formation] directors”
3/WASHINGTON TIMES: Wave goodbye to Internet freedom
4/WORLDNETDAILY (Jim Fletcher): ‘Christian’ media swings left
5/CHRISTIAN INVESTIGATOR: Beck’s Political Ideas Can Help America, But His “Gospel” Cannot
7/ONENEWSNOW: Obama cuts funding to faith-based groups
* TOP ARTICLE IN THIS CATEGORY FOR 2010:
1/Hipster Christianity by Brett McCracken – When “Cool” Isn’t Cool and Is Ashamed of the Gospel (Reviewer: Lighthouse Trails Editors)
2/Putting Away Childish Things, a Tale of Modern Faith by Marcus J. Borg (Reviewer: Ted Kyle)
4/REJESUS: A WILD MESSIAH FOR A MISSIONAL CHURCH BY MCLAREN, FROST & HIRSCH (Reviewer: Larry DeBruyn)
5/The Avatar Gospel (Reviewer: The Berean Call)
6/God Calling edited by A.J. Russell (Reviewers: Dwayna Litz and Charisse Graves)
7/ WorldNetDaily Applauds Lighthouse Trails Book, Castles in the Sand (Reviewer: Jim Fletcher)
8/ Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Reviewer: Berit Kjos)
9/GREGORY BOYD’S PRESENT PERFECT (Reviewer: Larry DeBruyn)
This is the first posting of several covering our 2010 YEAR IN REVIEW. In this first posting, we are listing the top story from seven different categories. Other postings will show the top ten stories in each particular category. While we realize it is very difficult to read everything that comes from Lighthouse Trails, we hope you will look over our YEAR IN REVIEW postings to see what you may have missed in these important stories.
YEAR IN REVIEW: Top Story from Each Lighthouse Trails Category
Top Lighthouse Trails Story for 2010: Rick Warren’s “Apologetics” Weekend Should Apologize for Representing “Another Gospel”
Top Story by a Lighthouse Trails Author for 2010: God’s Word Shines Light Upon End Time Apostasy – Roger Oakland
Top Story by Another Ministry for 2010: Sojourners Founder Jim Wallis’ Revolutionary Anti-Christian “Gospel” (and Will Christian Leaders Stand with Wallis?) by M. Danielsen
Top Out-of-House News Story for 2010: Pittsburg Post-Gazette: “More people turning to spiritual [formation] directors”
Top Video/Audio Interview for 2010: CrossTalk on WorldNetDaily Article – Challenge to Dominionist Leaders – The Gospel Should Come First! Ingrid Schlueter/Sarah Leslie
Top Book Review for 2010: Hipster Christianity by Brett McCracken – When “Cool” Isn’t Cool and Is Ashamed of the Gospel (Reviewer: Lighthouse Trails Editors)
Top Letter to the Editor to LT for 2010: Letter to the Editor: The Affects of “Spiritual Formation” in a Christian Church
SPECIAL REPORT: Rick Warren’s “Apologetics” Weekend Should Apologize for Representing “Another Gospel”
Dear Lighthouse Trails Reader: This is our last Special Report for 2010. It may be the most important article we have written all year. It is long and detailed, but we hope you will take the time to read it. Please consider distributing it to those in your own mailing lists who may be interested in the welfare of the church today.
Rick Warren’s “Apologetics” Weekend
Should Apologize for Representing “Another Gospel”
Eight years after the release of The Purpose Driven Life and numerous efforts by discerning Christian believers to warn others of this movement, the Saddleback Apologetics Weekend unveils more clearly than ever the spiritual direction toward which the evangelical church is racing . . .
In September 2009, Rick Warren held his first Apologetics Weekend conference at Saddleback Church. The conference featured some known apologists such as Norman Geisler and Gary Koukl. (It also included contemplative teacher J.P. Moreland.) The conference was a surprise to some who have followed with discernment the teachings and promotions of Rick Warren over the last decade–it seemed out of place for someone who had promoted the emerging church, contemplative prayer, and kingdom-on-earth-now beliefs to be presenting an “apologetics” conference. No doubt, some assumed that Rick Warren was changing his ways. Just a month prior, at the annual Harvest Crusade by Greg Laurie, Chuck Smith (founder of Calvary Chapel) stood in front of thousands and introduced Rick Warren who was sitting on the platform as his “good friend,” inviting him to lead the audience in prayer (see video). Just three years earlier, Chuck Smith denounced the Purpose Driven teachings as incompatible with Calvary Chapel teachings and dropped Warren’s book from the Calvary Chapel book distribution.
Between the Harvest Crusade and the Apologetics Weekend at Saddleback, both in 2009, it’s no wonder some people were thinking Rick Warren and the Purpose Driven movement were now coming into alignment with traditional evangelical thought. But no evidence showed that Warren’s focus or direction had actually changed. And one year after the 2009 Saddleback Apologetics Weekend, the 2nd Annual Apologetics Weekend took place and has provided the proof (once again) that Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven movement is indeed going down a path that is contemplative, emerging, and even on a ecumenical road to “Rome.” The title of the 2010 “Apologetics” conference was “Who is Jesus?” We believe that the “Jesus” represented at this conference is another Jesus with another gospel, as we will show in this article (2 Corinthians 11:4, Galatians 1:8).
Seeing this year’s Apologetics Weekend speaker lineup was even a surprise for Lighthouse Trails. Not because we thought Warren’s choice of speakers was contrary to what he believes but because it seemed so blatant and obvious.
This report will focus on three of the speakers at Saddleback’s 2010 Apologetics Weekend conference: Philip Yancey, Peter Kreeft, and Scot McKnight. By the time readers finish reading this article, we think you may agree that Rick Warren’s Apologetics conference should really be titled: “Rick Warren’s Emerging Contemplative Road to Rome Apologetics Weekend.”
Christianity Today editor-at-large, Philip Yancey, has been the subject of a number of Lighthouse Trails articles for his strong propensity toward contemplative prayer as well as his public statements regarding the homosexual lifestyle. Last week we posted an article about Yancey’s upcoming speaking engagement with the “Gay Christian Network.” Roger Oakland addresses some of Yancey’s views in Faith Undone (p. 215):
In 2004, Philip Yancey accepted an interview with Candace Chellew-Hodge for Whosoever, “an online magazine for Gay, Lesbian, Bi-Sexual, and Transgendered Christians.” When Chellew-Hodge asked Yancey about his views on gays and lesbians in the church, Yancey answered:
When it gets to particular matters of policy, like ordaining gay and lesbian ministers, I’m confused, like a lot of people. There are a few—not many, but a few—passages of Scripture that give me pause. Frankly, I don’t know the answer to those questions.
My question to Yancey and other proclaiming Christian leaders is why don’t you know the answer? The Bible is clear on this matter . . . part of being a Christian is accepting God’s Word and trusting that it is truly just that. Yancey may not be an emergent leader, but his beliefs certainly fit with emerging spirituality. The following statement he [Yancey] makes shows he shares a similar disregard for biblical doctrine:
Perhaps our day calls for a new kind of ecumenical movement: not of doctrine, nor even of religious unity, but one that builds on what Jews, Christians, and Muslims hold in common. . . . Indeed, Jews, Christians, and Muslims have much in common. (source)
Yancey is not just causing confusion over the sinfulness of practicing homosexuality, but he is a strong advocate for contemplative mystical spirituality as well. In his 2006 book (with a 2010 edition with the same basic components), Prayer: Does it Make Any Difference, there is a who’s who of mystical prayer and panentheist references some of which are Thomas Merton, goddess worshipper Sue Monk Kidd, Henri Nouwen, Evelyn Underhill, Kenneth Leach, Meister Eckhart, Teresa of Avila, The Cloud of Unknowing, Francis de Sales, Richard Rohr (referring to him as a “theologian – p. 205), and Anne Lamott–not to mention emerging innovators such as Phyllis Tickle, Jurgen Moltmann, and Walter Brueggemann. Yancey frequently references Thomas Merton in the book and recommends his readers turn to Merton (p. 337) and David Steindl-Rast (p. 338) for spiritual guidance. Yancey must have read these authors for he not only recommends them but also quotes from their books. This is not guilt by association but rather guilt by promotion. We could give you almost countless examples of what these authors believe, but let us just briefly look at a few quotes.
In Ray Yungen’s book, A Time of Departing, he discloses that: “David Steindl-Rast once asked Thomas Merton what role Buddhism played in his going deeper into the spiritual life. Merton replied quite frankly: “I think I couldn’t understand Christian teaching the way I do if it were not in the light of Buddhism” (The Dawn of the Mystical Age, Tuoti, p. 127, ATOD, p. 140).
Even more disturbing is Steindl-Rast’s view of the atonement of Christ:
Unfortunately, over the course of the centuries, this [Christianity] has come to be presented in almost legal language, as if it were some sort of transaction, a deal with God; there was this gap between us and God, somebody had to make up for it—all that business. We can drop that. The legal metaphor seems to have helped other generations. Fine. Anything that helps is fine. But once it [the atonement] gets in the way, as it does today, we should drop it. (The Ground We Share, p. 45)
And lastly, we give you this quote by another Yancey author, Richard Rohr:
The term “cosmic Christ” reminds us that everything and everyone belongs. . . God’s hope for humanity is that one day we will all recognize that the divine dwelling place is all of creation. Christ comes again whenever we see that matter and spirit co-exist. (source)
It’s not just that these authors who Yancey resonates with are individually bad–it’s their collective movement that is bad. This is the same movement that Yancey clearly seems attracted to. This is the very reason Lighthouse Trails exists, not to slam people but to warn them where the contemplative, emerging movement will take them–ultimately away from the message of the Cross.
If you are unfamiliar with some of these names we have mentioned in this article, type them into the Lighthouse Trails search engine – what you find will be another “gospel” that is universalistic, mystical, socialistic, and interspiritual. Quoting one of Merton’s biographers, Yungen recounts a scenario which reveals Merton’s view on the relationship between God and man:
During a conference on contemplative prayer, the question was put to Thomas Merton: “How can we best help people to attain union with God?” His answer was very clear: We must tell them that they are already united with God. “Contemplative prayer is nothing other than ‘coming into consciousness’ of what is already there.” (from Brennan Manning’s book, The Signature of Jesus, p. 211)
Ray Yungen explains: “Merton was referring here to his pure glory-of-God-in-everybody worldview. He is not just speaking of Christians. His universalism elsewhere repudiates that fact” (ATOD, p. 83).
For Rick Warren to feature Philip Yancey at an “apologetics” conference gives another green light to the panentheistic contemplative prayer movement and the emerging theology that goes hand in hand. According to Webster’s dictionary, the word “apologetics” is “a branch of theology devoted to the defense of the divine origin and authority of Christianity” (i.e., a defense of the biblical Christian faith).
Scot McKnight, one of the other speakers at Rick Warren’s conference, is also part of the emerging spirituality. Roger Oakland speaks of McKnight in Faith Undone. What Oakland shows here illustrates the “road to Rome” views of those in the emerging/contemplative church:
McKnight, another emerging church influencer, was professor of religious studies at North Park University and on the Coordinating Group for Emergent Village. Of the emerging church, he stated:
“As a theologian, I have studied the movement and interacted with its key leaders for years–even more, I happily consider myself part of this movement or “conversation.” As an evangelical, I’ve had my concerns, but overall I think what emerging Christians bring to the table is vital for the overall health of the church.” …
In referring to an Anglican service, McKnight speaks of the Eucharistic focus. He stated:
“[T]he point of an Anglican gathering on a Sunday morning is not to hear a sermon but to worship the Lord through the celebration of the Eucharist…. First some scripture readings and then the sermon and then some announcements and then the Eucharist liturgy with everyone coming forward to kneel and participate–publicly–in the body and blood.”
McKnight said that “the Eucharist profoundly enables the grace of God to be received with all its glories and blessings” (Turning to Jesus, p. 7). No doubt, McKnight has had an impact on those in the emerging church movement, and his views on the Eucharist will rub off. (Faith Undone, pp. 136-137)
In McKnight’s books Embracing Grace: A Gospel for All of Us (with an endorsement by Brian McLaren on the front cover and McLaren references within) and in his book A Community Called Atonement, McKnight doesn’t necessarily reject penal substitutionary atonement (as does McLaren) but says there are many ways of viewing atonement, likening it to golf clubs–using different ones for different purposes (Prologue). Worth noting, McKnight’s Atonement book was published by the emerging publishing partnership of Abingdon Press and Emergent Village. McKnight is seen by the emerging church as someone who represents it. And McKnight’s website and his books confirm this with numerous favorable references on these issues. In his book Jesus Creed, he recommends a variety of books by contemplative advocates including Gary Thomas’ book, Sacred Pathways, where he instructs readers to repeat a word for twenty minutes (which is mantric like meditation) and several other authors of whom we have already mentioned in this article. One of the books McKnight recommends is Eternal Wisdom from the Desert: Writings from the Desert Fathers. St. Anthony is one of the desert fathers featured in that book. Contemplative teacher, Willigis Jager disclosed the following:
Christian literature makes reference to many episodes that parallel the experiences of those going a yogic way. Saint Anthony, one of the first desert mystics, frequently encountered strange and sometimes terrifying psychophysical forces while at prayer. (Jager, Contemplation: A Christian Path, p. 72)
What is being described here is the Kundalini experience that can happen during mantric-like episodes. While McKnight does not come right out in his books and recommend practicing this, he recommends those who do. What we consider McKnight to be is a “bridger,” someone who claims orthodoxy but is actually being used as a bridge between orthodoxy and a dangerous mystical practice.
Lastly, this article will focus on Peter Kreeft, one of the other “apologetic” teachers at Saddleback this past fall. Kreeft was a Dutch Reformed Protestant who converted to Catholicism. He is considered by many to be a leading apologist of the Catholic faith. Kreeft embraces wholeheartedly the doctrinal elements that have traditionally split Catholics and Protestants such as the validity of the devotion to Mary and the validity of the Catholic sacraments. In his book, Ecumenical Jihad, he states the following:
Now I see that God prefers to work through intermediaries–Mary and the saints . . . He wants us to pray through Mary and not only directly. (p. 154)
[Mary] may bring the churches together again and heal the tears in her Son’s visible body on earth, she, the very one who seems to divide Catholics from Protestants. The most distinctive Catholic doctrines, especially those concerning the Eucharist and Mary, may prove to be the most unifying and attracting ones. (p. 158)
Consecrate your life to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. She is the one who will win this war. She is the one (as the Bible says) who triumphs over Satan. (p. 169 – parenthesis in original)
In Faith Undone, Roger Oakland explains Kreeft’s predictions of the plans of the Catholic church to bring in a eucharistic, mystical “Christ” whom the world will worship. Oakland states:
What if the Eucharistic Jesus that Catholics worship and adore miraculously started healing those who adored his presence? Wouldn’t this be a strong draw to those yet outside the Catholic Church? And as Boston College professor and meditation proponent Peter Kreeft predicted in his book Ecumenical Jihad, Eucharistic adoration will have a powerful ecumenical, interspiritual effect. He says “the power that will reunite the [Catholic] Church and win the world is Eucharistic adoration. (FA, pp. 141-142)
For readers who do not understand the significance of the papacy’s efforts to win back the lost brethren (Protestants) to the Mother of all churches (Rome) through the Eucharistic “Christ” and the new evangelization plan, please read Roger Oakland’s powerful expose, Another Jesus (we have several excerpts free on our site).
In addition to Kreeft’s absolute commitment to the Catholic Church’s Eucharistic “Christ” and the role of Mary, he is a proponent of contemplative spirituality as well. Kreeft was one of the speakers in the Be Still DVD, the infomercial for contemplative prayer, with Beth Moore and Richard Foster. As with most, if not all, long-term contemplative proponents, Kreeft’s interspiritual propensities are illustrated in his writings. In Ecumenical Jihad, he says that it is “very likely” that within the Hindu and Muslim faiths there is a “hidden Christ” (p. 156). Quoting the late panentheist and interspiritualist Raymond Pannikar (“the apostle of inter-faith dialogue”), Kreeft gives credence to Pannikar’s cosmic christ that Pannikar believed exists in all people. Kreeft believes that if all the religions of the world can come together in unity (and in adoration of the Immaculate [without sin] Mary), then the ills of the world can be healed. Remembering something Rick Warren said about four years ago in referring to a “second reformation in the church” helps one to understand why Warren resonates with Kreeft enough to invite him as an apologist:
“The man of peace is open and influential … and here’s the other thing, the man of peace does not have to be a Christian believer, could be Muslim, could be Jewish.” (Interview with Charlie Rose – 29:00 min. mark – This video was still online in March of 2012. By January 2013, it was removed.)
Yancey, McKnight, and Kreeft – apologetics for the biblical Christian faith? Based on what we have just shown here, how would you answer that question? Apparently, these are not important issues to Rick Warren though. Rick Warren told Larry King once that his goal in life is to bring about a new reformation. But the reformation Warren has defined over and over is ecumenical, contemplative, and emerging. Obviously, he considers Yancey, McKnight, and Kreeft fellow defenders of the faith. But we must ask ourselves, what faith is Rick Warren defending?
In a SoJourner’s magazine article (see *below) Philip Yancey once stated that he was surprised at how much he had gotten away with in the evangelical church. We wonder if Rick Warren may be saying the same thing these days. We beseech Christian leaders who have helped further the Purpose Driven movement through their public adherence to step up to the plate and say, “I Was Wrong. I was wrong to promote him. I was wrong to be silent when I did finally realize the truth.” Is it really that difficult for Christian leaders to see the direction that Rick Warren has been going all along? Leaders, pastors, teachers, are you going to continue linking arms with “America’s Pastor” who is clearly drawing closer and closer to a spirituality that the likes of David Steindl-Rast would embrace? Or will you choose to hold fast to the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Will you please men or will you be the servant of Christ?
I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed. For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ. Galatians 1:6-10
* Philip Yancey: “I myself have been surprised at what I can get away with. When I sent off the manuscript of What’s So Amazing About Grace? I said to my wife, Janet, “That’s probably the last book I’m going to write for the evangelical market.” It’s got a whole chapter on Mel White, who’s now a gay activist, and it’s got a whole chapter on Bill Clinton, who’s not the most favored president of evangelicals.” Sojourner Magazine “Sex, Lies and Living on the Evangelical Edge“
LTRP Note: The following news story is posted for informational and research purposes only, not as an endorsement:
A Greener Spirit: Evangelicals Embrace “Creation Care”
by Austin Billings
Perhaps the loudest evangelical voice on climate change is the Rev. Rich Cizik. Until December 2008, Cizik was the chief lobbyist for the National Association of Evangelicals – an organization made up of dozens of major conservative denominations. Today, he is the co-founder of the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good. “As a biblical Christian,” he said in an April article on Grist.com, “I agree with St. Francis that every square inch on Earth belongs to Christ. If we don’t pay attention to global climate change, it’s pretty obvious that tens and or even hundreds of millions of people are going to die.”
Cizik is not alone. The Evangelical Climate Initiative of 2006 was a major document affirming these principles, signed by 86 prominent evangelicals – including best-selling author Pastor Rick Warren, numerous other megachurch pastors, and 39 evangelical college presidents. Click here to continue reading.
Related information from Lighthouse Trails:
Planned Parenthood’s Federal Funding Rose to $363.2 Million in FY 2008-2009, Aborted 324,008 Unborn Children in 2008
By Penny Starr (Out of house article for informational purposes)
(CNSNews.com) –Planned Parenthood received $363.2 million in government grants and contracts during its 2008-2009 fiscal year, according to the organization’s annual report. That was up from $349.6 million in FY2007-08.
According to a fact sheet on Planne Parenthood’s Web site, the organization performed 324,008 abortion in calender year 2008. That was up from 305,310 in 2007 and 289,750 in 2006.
The number of abortions performed by Planned Parenthood in 2006 and 2007 was reported in the group’s 2007-2008 annual report, on page 9. The abortions for 2008 were reported in the fact sheet–“current as of September 2010.” The number was not included in Planned Parenthood’s latest annual report.
As for the latest annual report, it shows that the Planned Parenthood national organization and its affiliates in all 50 states and U.S. territories had a total in net assets for fiscal year 2008-2009 of $994.7 million, a decrease of $19.6 million from the previous year. (Planned Parenthood’s fiscal year runs from July 1 to June 30.) Click here to continue reading.
LTRP Note: The following is from Anita Dittman’s book, Trapped in Hitler’s Hell, the true story of a Christian Jewish teenager during WWII in Germany. We have posted this excerpt before but are doing so again for those who may not have read it. While many are concerned over the economy, the growing immorality in our culture, and an increasing amount of deception in the Christian church, Anita’s Christmas story helps put things in perspective. In spite of all the struggles and sufferings that happen in this world, the one who belongs to Jesus Christ through faith by His grace can indeed say: The Lord is always faithful, just, and good.
We prayed that God would miraculously sustain our strength; each day our food rations diminished so the German soldiers on the battlefronts could receive more food. Shortly after all of us Christians had prayed for physical strength, the neighboring farmers again rallied for us. Risking their lives, they smuggled us sausage, bread, and cheese and told us to eat the nourishing mushrooms in the forest where we cut trees. God seemed to pack a thousand calories in each tiny mushroom and bite of bread as we who trusted Jesus were given physical and spiritual sustenance.
Two horrible realities faced us women in December: winter and the traitors among us. To make life more comfortable for themselves,some women were reporting others to the guards for such things as conversations, attitudes, or anti-Nazi sentiment–anything that would make their lives more comfortable. Many of them spent the night with the guards and were given preferential treatment.
As the winter winds increased, everyone’s spirits sank. Our uniforms were terribly inadequate, and many of us were sent clothes from home. Father sent me some warm socks, gloves, and a jacket. If we worked long enough and hard enough, we could keep ourselves relatively warm on the work line. But marching to and from the work area was difficult because the wind raced through our clothing.
Again we anxiously awaited the whistle when the horse cart would bring us warm, lumpy soup. But it tasted awful, and usually it was cold by the time it reached us. The chunks in the soup were like tree bark. I watched Gunther one day as he took his bowl of soup to a mock grave. Pouring the soup in the grave, he covered it with dirt. Then he took a large stone and placed it over the grave site. On the stone he wrote: “Hier ruhet still una unvergessen, unser heutiges Mittagessen.” (“Here rests, still and unforgotten, today’s menu.”)
Just before Christmas I met another beautiful believer: Christian Risel. We met on the work line while cutting trees and, in our own silent way, quickly fell in love. Though I loved Rudi, Wolfgang, Gerhard, and Gunther, the love in my heart for Christian was different. A little older than I, he was strong and handsome in spite of the months of labor and deprivation. His eyes virtually sparkled, while the eyes of others in the camp were glassy and dazed. He had a smile when everyone else had a negative word, for he loved everyone in a special way. He even had Christian compassion for the Nazis. But he loved me the most. Of course no time was allowed for romance in the camp. It was too cold to stay outside much in our thin clothing, and we couldn’t go inside each other’s quarters. But we cut trees together frequently and got to know one another better. Each day that we were together, our love was reaffirmed.
“Someday, Anita, we will be gloriously free and happy once again,” Christian said as his axe cut into a thick pine tree. “We will have money to spend and food to eat, and we will have loved ones surrounding us. We’ll never have to dread another knock on our door. Do you believe that too, Anita?”
“I do. God reaffirms it every day. But I would rather be locked away and have Jesus than to be my sister, Hella, safe in the free world but denying the very One who gave her freedom.”
“Nothing happens without a purpose, doesn’t it?” Christian said. “What do you suppose is our ultimate purpose for being trapped in Nazi Germany? I think it is to glorify God in the end. Do you think that is true?”
“I do, Christian.”
“Anita, do you know what day it is today?”
“It is Christmas Eve. I have a surprise for you and the other Christians in the camp.”
“Why have you waited so long to tell me, Christian?”
“Because it was just confirmed at lunchtime.” Christian’s eyes really sparkled with excitement now. “Mr. Anders has given me permission to take all the Christians to a Christmas Eve service in Ostlinde tonight! Of course a guard will accompany us, but he will be exposed to the gospel too.”
“Christian, you don’t mean it! A real Christmas Eve service. We must spread the news. Oh, it is another miracle of God.” To war-weary Christian prisoners who loved Jesus, this was the best news in months, perhaps years. But the camp’s unbelievers had no time for our happiness; most of them felt no special comfort each day as we believers did. Whether they were jealous or skeptical, they preferred that we keep to ourselves, which only drew us closer together.
Twenty of us trudged over the snow-covered hills and meadows that night to a little country church at the edge of Ostlinde. The snow was falling lightly, and both melted snowflakes and tears dampened my face as Christian took my hand. “This will be the most meaningful Christmas I’ve ever had,” I told him. “It shows God’s very special love for us. It tells me He cares for us and that we’ll be all right in the end.”
“The birth of Jesus must have been like this,” Christian said quietly. “He was poor and persecuted, and He was misunderstood and rejected, yet He always forgave. We have to forgive too, Anita, even the Nazis.”
That night we huddled in the little church with a hundred or more of the farmers and townspeople. We sang Christmas carols and praised the Lord until well after midnight. As we read the Christmas story, we were reassured that Jesus knew our every ache because He also had been a man and had experienced human grief. In the dim candlelight we all gathered at the altar on our knees and prayed for Germany and our separated families; the guard stood careful watch in the doorway. Then we trudged home in the moonlight, for the snow had stopped falling. No one spoke a word; we all were savoring every minute of this blessed Christmas Eve.
[A]s we headed back to the camp over the snowdrifts, in the stillness of that dark, dark night, nobody spoke. Our silent communication conveyed a oneness that superseded all verbal expression. Saturated with the restful music and with gratitude to God, I sank into a deep and restful sleep on my straw mattress. (Anita Dittman was 17 years old when this story took place. Today, she is 82 and lives in Minnesota. For more about her story, see Trapped in Hitler’s Hell)
“For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” Romans 8:18