The Good about the Bad

The sky hung weighty and pale. Backyard held a foggy hush, but inside the whole household glittered with candlelight and beamed with courage.

Christmas togetherness circled a long table laid with evergreen. The year had been mostly good, aside from an unwelcome medical diagnosis in the midst, and this could have disheartened the season.

But . . . joy and light and great news for all people.

In Psalm 112, the ones who fear the Lord are described as blessed and fearless. Light arises in the darkness for the upright, those who delight in His commandments (vv. 1,4).


For he will never be shaken;
The righteous will be remembered forever.

He will not fear evil tidings;
His heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord.
His heart is upheld, he will not fear . . . “

Psalm 112:6-8

The reason we’re not cowering in fear of more evil news, tonight or next year, is because:

“…The gospel makes genuinely good news out of every other aspect of my life, including my severest trials.” ― Milton Vincent, A Gospel Primer

Are you clothed in Christ’s righteousness? Be steadfast in heart, trusting the Lord; there’s nothing left to fear.

Think about the shepherds, faced with a reason for terror.

When the sky split, it wasn’t Christmas-pageant, Dance of the Sugarplum Fairy imagery. An angel army began shouting in the sky.

I, too, would have been stricken with fright. I think the shepherds anticipated evil reports, judgment, or end-of-the-world pronouncements. Perhaps their sheep scattered.

No wonder the angel declared “do not be afraid” first of all. Their presence necessitated it.

And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people. For today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.”

The shepherds’ fear of bad tidings was overwhelmed by good news in a manger.

The shepherds had sinful souls destined for wrath, and so do we. It paints the bleak night stage, set for the desperately needed good news/great joy of Christ’s birth, His death, and His resurrection.

Still today we have no need to be afraid because the light arises in the darkness. Sinners are called to hear and know the gospel, which changes everything about everything. We are considered “the righteous” because Jesus bought us. Each medical diagnosis is about glory to God in the highest. And He leaves peace with us, but not the kind the world gives.

Nothing can truly shake the righteous one’s position before God. No terror of the night can steal the peace promised that surpasses all understanding.

It’s why my family doesn’t need to fear evil tidings but can rejoice in the knowledge of our eternal security, the goodness of God’s perfect plan, and the desire for gory to the Prince of Peace, come what may. This is the good about the bad.

Unfiltered Christmas

The eagerness mounted last year as I watched people all over the world bring Christmas to their hearths in golden creams and woodsy sparkle. I couldn’t wait to capture all I had learned about decorating into my first Christmas in a new home.

After Thanksgiving, I sat amidst the Walmart bags and bubblewrap wrapped around my ornaments and nativity set. My collection of childhood ornaments and hand-me-down castaways stared at me, as my vision for coco-bombs and neutral threads met . . . . what I had to work with. How could I make any theme out of mismatched snowmen, a painting of a cardinal, and ornaments chipped from my childhood? My taste in style had changed with the trends, but my decor bin hadn’t.

The feeling of unmet expectation peaked when we pulled out our sparse four-foot tree. What perched cozy and perfect in our apartment, now the most Charlie Brown tree that ever Charlie Browned.

We stood it on a table to keep it from being swallowed in our new space. “It looks like it’s trying to be something it’s not,” my husband pointed out, and then we burst into long laughter. So I made the best of our Christmasy mess and enjoyed it all December.

But I made mental notes for next year.

First, truth be told, I found a much grander tree, and today I decked the thrifted 7.5-footer with strands of red beads. It fills the room with announcement of light and honor brought to our humble ornament-shaped memories.

Secondly, remembering my decorating despair of 2020, I’m choosing to admire the lovely Christmas-card moments on “the ‘Gram,” but also pray a guard of contentment for myself. May I rejoice in my gifts of my own home and my Savior.

Material beauty will never be enough. The best of earth will never meet the deepest longing of our brokenness. We long, like pining Bethlehem, for our Mighty God to do great things for us. And He has.

I see it in the shiny gold letters that spell out the names of Christ, draping our tree. Prince of Peace. Emmanuel. Savior. Mighty God. Wonderful Counselor.

I see it in my little elfish helper, who will fully enjoy his first Christmas if cardboard boxes and people are involved.

I see it in how our Charlie Brown tree from the apartment days (now gracing the back room) reminds me unmet expectations are a mercy because they can set our eyes on God’s wondrous light. Each seasonal disappointment, shattered ornament, or sickness gives another reason to joyfully worship a perfect God who meets all our true needs.

I wish you an unfiltered, real Christmas where real truths, like “veiled in flesh the Godhead see . . . born to give them second birth” are the brightest theme of this season.

“Christ, by highest heav’n adored,
  Christ, the everlasting Lord:
Late in time behold Him come,
  Offspring of a virgin’s womb.
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see,
  Hail th’ incarnate Deity!
Pleased as man with man to dwell,
  Jesus our Immanuel.

Hail the heav’n-born Prince of Peace!
  Hail the Sun of righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings,
  Ris’n with healing in His wings:
Mild He lays His glory by,
  Born that man no more may die;
Born to raise the sons of earth;
  Born to give them second birth.”
“Hark the Harold Angels Sing,” Charles Wesley

One Weary Accord

A certain carol lyric sang in my heart one day as I drove to work underneath a magical pink sunrise. Still several weeks before Thanksgiving, I wasn’t trying to meditate on Christmas, but I felt I had stumbled on something deeply meaningful for the coming season. Something to be shared.

“A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices.”

It turns out I wasn’t unique to claim this theme.

I bumped into these words in a number of Christmas missionary letters I’ve edited this year. The same phrase is fastened on my boss’s cubicle wall. Perhaps you’ve seen them too, in a friend’s Instagram post or felt new meaning when hearing this song on the radio.

There’s a reason we’re lingering on the theme of rejoicing a little extra this year.

With every Christmas card we write, every strand of lights we string, every gift we buy — hope is stirring for those who know Christ. We crave hope and light as we wrap up this historic year, and we’re thrilled to focus on the source.

“Long lay the world in sin and error pining, then He appeared and the soul felt its worth.

Just this past weekend we visited KC and were reminded of both error and worth. We rejoiced in my husband’s graduation with his Master of Divinity. We smiled to learn friends were dating each other. We sat shocked over breakfast menus to hear of a fellow seminary grad friend who had gone back home but split paths with God. We listened to loads of (welcome!) advice about diaper brands and sleep schedules for our new baby. But also heard of health struggles of other infants. My husband shared the gospel with someone on the plane next to us on the way home. Due to all the ups and downs of our trip, we fell into bed exhausted but grateful because of all the hope we have in Christ’s appearance in the flesh.

Passages buried in the Old Testament remind us we–in our weariness–have ever so much to rejoice in. And I’m happy to sing what might be cliché in Christmas 2020. Like Israel on that holy night, we can celebrate Immanuel!

Many feel that the New Year ball will drop (or in my Idaho’s case, a potato?!) and hope will land with it. That’s a familiar lie we’ve all faced before. “Things will get better if we can just get through this week, clock out for the weekend, go on vacation, free up my schedule, get over this head cold . . .” We wait and pine for the next thing, perhaps with a thrill of false hope.

The fact is our futures could be as terrifying as Charles Dicken’s ghost of Christmas yet to come. I’m an extremely optimistic person, but I have to admit no guarantees exist for 2021. But even if they did, our spirits can not be lifted simply by a change in circumstances or the passing of a crumby year.

What we need is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. A ruler who reigns in understanding of our weakness. A song of rejoicing in the midst of any oppression.

Behold the One who meets this need:  

“The King of Kings lay thus in lowly manger;
In all our trials born to be our friend.

He knows our need, to our weakness is no stranger,
Behold your King! Before Him lowly bend!
Behold your King, Before Him lowly bend!

Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother;
And in His name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy name.

Christ is the Lord! O praise His Name forever,
His power and glory evermore proclaim.
His power and glory evermore proclaim.”

Apart from Him we won’t find worth — He is the One our souls greatly anticipate. Our earthly voices may be weary indeed. But they are grateful. Let us join the chorus with one accord and fall on our knees to worship our KING of kings, who will return in a second advent (coming). His power and glory evermore!

Merry Christmas and thank you so much for following my blog this year!

*Song “O Holy Night” Adolphe Adam, Placide Cappeau