Title:  "The Judge Who Stole Christmas"
Author:  Randy Singer
Publisher:  WaterBrook Press

In these days of October, my morning walk is finally in the cool of early autumn. It's a rich and sensuous experience to crunch through the first falling leaves, feel the cooler air, smell breakfast cooking in a neighbor's kitchen, then turn homeward as the horizon cracks open to admit the sun's first rays.

It's cool enough to make me think, "Only, uh, how many more shopping days 'til Christmas?" I'm now officially a senior adult, but I still grasp at any little thing that might hasten the arrival of December 25. Actually, something else had already turned my heart that way. A few weeks ago, I read "The Judge Who Stole Christmas" (WaterBrook Press, October 2005), a new novella by Randy Singer.

Singer is one of my favorite novelists, so I was eager to begin reading. Until now, his fiction has been of the legal thriller genre. This one, however, is a delightful and compelling Christmas tale. Though couched in the context of a legal dilemma that is a critical issue of our day, this novella has a different feel because of the Christmas setting.

The issue:  Does a Christian nativity scene belong in the public arena?

The story:  Protagonists Thomas and Theresa Hammond are a poor couple with two young children. The Hammonds depict Joseph and Mary in an annual live nativity scene displayed in the public square of Possum, Virginia, their hometown. Enter the villain, federal Judge Cynthia Baker-Kline. Think you can predict the conflict that's going to erupt?

You're right. Thomas is hardheaded, certain he's in the right, and determined to ignore the judge's ruling if it goes against his conscience. The judge is equally hardheaded, certain she's in the right, and determined that Thomas will obey her ruling.

Among supporting players, television evangelist Freddie Hester stands out. The good reverend encounters no person, no cause and no circumstance beyond his ability to exploit. When Thomas is arrested, Hester manipulates Theresa into firing her attorney and letting him take over the case.

Singer's description of Hester – just before Theresa is to appear on his television show – illustrates the author's gift for painting memorable characters: "The man had more makeup caked on than Theresa, though he passed on the lipstick. His hair stood up about four inches, then swept back over his head like the mane of a stallion. He was smiling as he looked straight into the camera, as if he might kiss it at any moment."

The author – an attorney by profession – Singer entered the fiction field in 2003 with "Directed Verdict." That first novel won the Christy Award for excellence for the year's best Christian suspense novel.

So he's a novelist and a lawyer. What else? Talk to Singer and you quickly discover that he's a man with a sense of humor. And a man of humility. And a man with a passion to represent the Gospel faithfully in everything he does, even fiction.

"In all of history, no event is more worthy of our meditation and best storytelling efforts than: The Word became flesh and dwelt among us," said Singer. That Scripture, John 1:14, defines a hallmark of Singer's work – the Good News of the Gospel is, indeed, always an integral element in his creative fiction.
 
With several years of practice as a trial lawyer, and currently as professor at Regent Law School and chief counsel for the North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, Singer has a finger on the pulse of church-state issues that stir controversy these days. His profession has provided him with fertile ground for exciting fiction.

"One thing I don't make up is the law," said Singer. "I try to be accurate on the substantive issues and legal proceedings. There is enough conflict and drama and majesty in our legal system that you don't have to go beyond what's there to write a good story."

Conflict. Drama. Majesty. Singer mixes them together well in "The Judge Who Stole Christmas."


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