The amazing, astonishing, startling, unexpected grace of Christmas

I pieced the shepherd back together yesterday.

One night while I was out this past week, apparently there was a crash, the kind that happens when child meets breakable object.  The shepherd in our nativity took a tumble and  was left in pieces.  His lamb was missing wool.  He was missing a hand and a foot and a corner of his robe.

So, I puzzled it out piece by piece with a bottle of super glue until he looked presentable again.

This isn’t the first brokenness in our nativity.

There’s a wise men who has had some patching up, as well.  A few years ago, he crashed and lost his head and a foot.  Super glue saved the day then, too.

I bought the set years and years ago for $6 at a church yard sale, and I love it.  Truly love it.  It’s not porcelain white with gold trim.  It’s not handcrafted wood.  It’s not expensive or fancy.  It was a bargain,  well-loved, used, and slightly the worst for wear.

It’s been a little broken even from the beginning for me.  Our donkey came to us with one ear missing.  So, this little set has some history.

But I love it. There’s something about these figures that draws me, their individual expressions and personality,  the colorfulness of it all, maybe.

Maybe the beauty is simply this: Jesus didn’t come all pristine and showy.  He didn’t come gilded or gorgeous, lofty and high.

He came so low.  He came to  the humblest and the small.  He came to the broken.

He came to us.

I see this heart in Mary when she sang with astonishment at the angel’s message.  She would be the mother of the Savior! Her!  Not some princess or queen, not a woman of position and power, not a matriarch of a rich family,

Young.  Single.  Poor.

Mary sang:

“My soul magnifies the Lord,
     and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
 for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
    For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
 for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
    and holy is his name (Luke 1:36-49).

Her song rings with astonishment.  Not just that God would do  this miraculous work, but that He would do these great things “for me.”

In his book, Hidden Christmas, Timothy Keller writes:

We should be just as shocked that God would give us—with all our smallness and flaws—such a mighty gift.

God  does this.  He chooses the humble.   Scripture reminds us of God’s heart:

Though the Lord is great, he cares for the humble, but he keeps his distance from the proud
(Psalm 138:6 NLT)

The Lord supports the humble, but he brings the wicked down into the dust.
(Psalm 147:6 NLT)

For the Lord delights in his people; he crowns the humble with victory.
(Psalm 149:4 NLT)

So he chooses this girl Mary, and when He does she marvels at the way this is so topsy-turvy, so against the world’s expectations and plans:

He has shown strength with his arm;
    he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
52 he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
    and exalted those of humble estate;
53 he has filled the hungry with good things,
    and the rich he has sent away empty (Luke 1:51-53). 

He has blessed not the mighty, but the humble,  not the rich, but the hungry.

How startling that God would choose her.

And he chooses simple shepherds.  He chooses foreigners, Gentiles, from a far off nation to carry the gold and the frankincense and the myrrh to worship this new King.  He chooses the tiny town of Bethlehem; He chooses a stable, not a palace in the capital city.

How startling that God would choose them. 

It’s an astonishment we need ourselves:  How startling that God would choose us:  love us, save us, call us, use us.

Us!  Yes, us, the broken ones gathered around the nativity, held together by super glue with our cracks still evident upon up-close inspection.


Timothy Keller continues in his book this way:

“no Christian should ever be far from this astonishment that ‘I, I of all people, should be loved and embraced by his grace!” (Hidden Christmas)

It’s a surprise that shakes us out of complacency and into awe-filled worship.  Our God, so mighty, so worthy of praise, He “has done great things for me!”  Yes, He has done this even for me, even when I was lost, even when I’m imperfect, even when I mess up, even when I’m broken, even when I don’t  have it all together.

Such grace.  Such amazing grace.

Broken ornaments and letting go of perfection

The first crash of that shattering glass hit and it was just the day after Thanksgiving.  We were only one day into the Christmas season and only about 1 hour into Operation Decorate the House.

‘Twas an accident of course.

The penguin soap dispenser hit that floor and ended in a puddle of hand soap and broken glass.

Accidents happen, you know.That’s decorating with kids.

An hour later, another crash.  Our box of special, keepsake, treasured ornaments hit the floor and a daughter cried with remorse.

Still, a little sweeping, a little mopping, a little gluing, a little comforting and we slipped back into the decorating groove, crooning along with Bing Crosby to White Christmas.

Stuff is stuff.  Things break (especially when you’re clumsy like me, especially when you have four kids like us).

Look at our Christmas tree from afar and it still has that glow of perfect.

Look up close and you’ll see the ballerina’s feet are glued on, Noah’s ark is missing a dolphin leaping up out of the ocean waters, and the three kings no longer carry a sign: “Wise Men Still Seek Him.”

Brokenness can still be beautiful when we look with eyes of grace.

But when we squint up close to critique and criticize….when we look right past the glory and seek out the flaws…..suddenly that’s all we see.

Perfectionism is a bully.

It muscles in and takes over our perceptions.

It demands that we see only brokenness and faults.

It insists that we remain chained to the past, obsessing over mistakes, battering us over past sin, beating us up with shame.

Lysa TerKeurst writes:

My imperfections will never override God’s promises (The Best Yes).

The promise of Christmas is “God with us.”  The promise is that when we were farthest from Him, He came to us.

The promise is that we didn’t have to get it right on our own or check the boxes of the law until we’d met some prerequisite to grace.

We didn’t come worthy.

We came needy.

And He came down.

Our imperfections never negated the promise of Emmanuel’s presence.  Not then.  Not now.

He still promises us this, “And surely I will be with you always” (Matthew 28:20 NIV).

He is with us always, but not to leave us there in the brokenness.

Sometimes we stop right there at this thought: “Beauty in the brokenness.  We’re all a mess in need of a Messiah.”

Sometimes we stop right there and, dare I say it, glory in the broken?  We cling to our mess instead of releasing it to Him.

But the glory is in the Healer.  The glory is in the redemption.  The glory is in the One who puts His own pure robe of righteousness over our shaky shoulders.

He doesn’t leave us naked and ashamed.  He “has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness” (Isaiah 61:10 NIV).

We’ll never be perfect in our own striving and strength.  True.  But we don’t have to remain stuck there in the mud.  He grips us with the hand of grace and pulls us out of that pit so we can move forward with Him.

Those disciples on the road to Emmaus after the resurrection didn’t have it all right.  They didn’t have perfect understanding.  Their belief was delicately trembling and about to topple their whole foundation of faith.

They thought Jesus had been the Messiah, yet He had died.  These rumors from ‘crazy women’ about an empty tomb left them confused and alarmed.

But Jesus walked alongside without them recognizing him, going back to the beginning, telling the story start to finish.

When He was about to leave, “they urged him strongly, ‘Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.’ So he went in to stay with them.”

There at the dinner table, He broke the bread and their eyes opened wide to the truth: This was Jesus.  This was God in their midst.

As I consider these searching followers, these disciples who didn’t have it all figured out and didn’t know all the answers, who were hurting and confused, I realize this:

God’s presence doesn’t hinge on perfection.

God’s presence doesn’t demand perfect understanding or faith without fail.

But if I want God’s presence, then I have to invite Him in, urge Him strongly, “stay with me…..”

He can only make us whole when we trust Him with the pieces, all of them:

God made my life complete
    when I placed all the pieces before him. Psalm 18:20 MSG

We bring all the pieces.  We don’t hold any back.

We lay them at His feet, not running away or hiding from Him.  We come into His presence, broken as we are, and He makes us whole and holy, and He stays with us.

Originally published 12/10/2014

Book Review | The Wonder of Advent Devotional

The Wonder of Advent Devotional
by Chris  Tiegreen

I am a sucker for a good Advent or Christmas devotional book and I read several of them every year through the Christmas season.  No matter how many times I read through the Christmas story in the Gospels, I love the fresh look and the new lessons.  Besides that, with Christmas comes BUSY, so spending a few quiet moments tucked away with a devotional that brings you into focus and helps you bring it all back to Jesus instead of allowing yourself to get carried away by cookies and presents and decorating and doing, doing, doing and stuff…well, that’s a beautiful thing,  So, when I saw that Chris Tiegreen (one  of my favorite devotional writers) released The Wonder of Advent Devotional, I knew it had to  be one of my Christmas reads this year.

The book actually begins with extremely  brief readings for the last week of November. These are to prepare your heart for Advent and each takes less than five minutes to read.  Following the week of Preparation, the book then offers a slightly longer devotional for each day in December.  Each devotion concludes with a brief prayer, a moment  of reflection, an opportunity for further reading in Scripture, and a few lines from  a Christmas carol.

It’s  a beautiful book with the gold lettering  on the cover and the thoughtful reflections included in the text.  One of my favorite passages was, “God has no need to impress.  He is completely secure and excruciatingly patient.  He has the subtlety of an artist and the precision of an engineer.  He is content to dress in unassuming clothes until  the eyes of faith recognize him.”  I’ll  be enjoying this devotional myself this December, but it could also make  a lovely gift for someone else.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review and the opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Disclaimer: Heather King is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to

This is How Close God Chooses to Come


In December of 2008, I was directing the church Christmas cantata while pregnant.

I was early pregnant.  That means we still kept it secret and my clothing still kind of fit so no one could look at me and tell yet.

We had wrapped up the first ultrasound picture and planned to give it to our parents for Christmas that year.

Early pregnant also meant I was sick pregnant.

So, before I walked on the stage to direct the choir that night, my husband prayed for me and then gave me some practical advice, “If you need to throw up, just leave the stage and I’ll take over for you until you can come back.”

That’s love for you, right there.

Of course, since no one else knew I was pregnant, it might have looked more than a little odd to see the music director flee from the stage right in the middle of a song.  We would have had some explaining to do.

I popped a peppermint that night and managed to get through the entire choral program without exiting the stage for a frantic run to the nearest bathroom.  That meant we could keep the news about the baby safely secret until Christmas just as we had planned.

And I loved those secret days.  There’s something intimate and joyful about tucking good news away and savoring it before sharing it.

This Christmas, it’s Mary on my mind as a I remember back to those Christmases I spent holding a newborn baby myself or preparing to share the good news about a baby to come.

I remember Mary who so willingly sacrificed her plans and agenda to submit to God’s will.

Mary who trusted God.

Mary who worshiped and declared “He has done great things!”

Mary who gave thanks.

Mary who “treasured these things in her heart.”

And Mary, who carried God Himself, the Messiah and Savior, within.

Maybe she had her own bouts with nausea, but she also had this closeness to God, the very closest a human being could ever get to the divine—to carry Him within.

But this is the beauty of Christmas for all of us, because Jesus came to earth to be reachable and touchable by us, as well.

God came near, not just next to us or before us—but to be within us.

Scripture tells us that we as Christians carry Christ in us to a world that needs Him so.

Paul asked the Corinthian church:

Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? ( 2 Corinthians 13:5 ESV)

And to the Galatians, he said:

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me (Galatians 2:20 ESV)

To the Colossians, Paul declared that this was a great mystery:

To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27 ESV).

This is how close God chooses to come.

There are days, maybe especially during seasons when we run about at a frantic life-pace, when God feels so distant, so far, so unreachable.

But I remember Mary.  And I remember how Christ came within her.  And how He comes to be within us.

That’s the joy of Christmas:  How God broke through barriers and distance and the law and sin and death.  He overcame all of that to be with us and to be within us.

Max Lucado says there’s even more to this promise:

“Christ grew in Mary until he had to come out. Christ will grow in you until the same occurs. He will come out in your speech, in your actions, in your decisions. Every place you live will be a Bethlehem, and every day you live will be a Christmas. You, like Mary, will deliver Christ into the world” (In the Manger, Max Lucado).

May we pause this season to ponder anew the promise of Christ within.

What a gift that He is with us everywhere we go, that He is near and He is reachable.

But also this:  What a joy to deliver Christ to those around us, to share Him with others through word and deed.


The perfect gift


My youngest daughter scanned the book fair shelves with care, looking intently for one particular book in a whole wide sea of books.

She wasn’t shopping for herself, though.

Our kids draw names for Christmas every year and each one excitedly plans out what gifts to give to their “chosen” sibling.

So, my youngest girl was shopping for her oldest sister, and she was doing it with great intentionality.

A few days previously, we had all come looking through the book fair goodies to see what was there and what we might like.  That’s when she watched as her big sister, Victoria, made a huge pile of Christmas book requests.

Then, we took pictures of every single book Victoria asked for so we’d remember.

Now, here we were on present-buying day, with a seven-year-old looking for one book in particular from her sister’s epically long list.

She felt exultant when she found that perfect gift for her sister.

But I felt deeply sad.

Because her older sisters did not know and did not see how much attention she paid to the wishlist, how hard she looked for the right present, and how excited she was to finally find it so she could make her sister happy.

In fact, they didn’t trust her.

I’d heard them whispering with disappointment when they found out she was buying for one of them.

Finally, my older daughter confessed the day before that she just knew she’d get a rotten gift this year since her younger sister was picking it out.  Why couldn’t someone else be buying for her this year, someone who would pick a good gift?

These older sisters cruelly discounted her without giving her a chance.  They judged her gift without ever even opening it.

They did not believe any gift she could give them would be good.

Still, whether it’s deserved or not, on Christmas morning, a seven-year-old girl is going to give her oldest sister a wrapped gift that she picked out herself.  And it will be a good gift, a perfect gift. It will be a gift of grace.

I might even cry a little.

After all, we also have a way of doubting our own Good Giver at times.

James tells us:

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. James 1:17 ESV

The book of Matthew also says:

If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! Matthew 7:11 ESV

God gives us good and perfect gifts.  Not only that.  He doesn’t give begrudgingly or out of obligation. He loves to bless us.  It brings Him joy.

I don’t always feel that.  Sometimes I feel like I’m begging for scraps of blessing from beneath a heavenly table.  Don’t forget me, God!  I’m here, too!

God’s heart isn’t to ignore us or bless everyone around us and give us the leftovers of his favor and attention.

We just don’t always see or recognize or take the time to be grateful for the gifts He gives.

Christmas reminds us that God gives perfect gifts to His children, even if they are unexpected or packaged in disguise.

Jesus Christ, the “indescribable gift,” came in humble wrappings.  It wasn’t fancy packages, ribbons or bows that caught the attention of the shepherds or touched Mary’s heart (2 Corinthians 9:15).

It was God giving Himself.

And while many expected a Messiah to have worldly position and power, God’s plan overthrew expectations.  He came low.

Isn’t this the most precious part of this gift?  That Jesus came down to us, He came to be accessible and within reach.

He was the gift no one fully expected, but all of us truly needed.

Max Lucado wrote:

There was not a hint of one person who was afraid to draw near him. There were those who mocked him, were envious of him, and misunderstood him. There were those who revered him. But no one considered him too holy or too divine to touch. There was not one person who was reluctant to approach him for fear of being rejected (In the Manger)

Maybe we’re doubting God as a giver this year.  We wonder about His timing.  We wonder about His plans for us.

We may question His heart and struggle to feel loved.

But God gave us a Good Gift and God still gives us good gifts.

We can trust Him.

The joy of light is in the sharing


My son decisively flicks off the overhead lights in the kitchen.

This is inconvenient since I am actually cooking dinner at that precise moment.

So, I flick the lights back on and thereby initiate a light battle.

Off. On.  Off. On.

Finally, he pushes down the switch one more time and says, “Mom, it’s pretty!”

That’s when he points to the Christmas lights:  Our Victorian village with houses, stores, a library and church all glowing; The garland strung with lights surrounding our nativity scene; the Christmas tree glowing from the living room.

Everywhere there is light.

But it shows up best against the darkness and he knows it.

So, I acquiesce a bit because I understand this quest for beauty.

When I need to see into the back recesses of the cabinet, I turn the switch on.  When I’m finished digging out ingredients and just stirring them into the pot on the stove, I keep it off.

Maybe my son and I are kindred spirits in this.

Each morning, before I have shuffled over to the teapot to heat water for my tea, before I have poured cereal into the bowl for my toddler, before I have fed the cat, I journey around our home and plug in every string of Christmas lights we have.

Only then am I prepared to start the day’s routine.

And throughout the day, I work and clean and write by the light of tiny Christmas bulbs whenever possible.

The light and the glow bring me a sweet, indefinable peace and a little bit of extra joy. It reminds me that even when I feel surrounded by darkness, the Light has come.

That is what Christmas is.

That is what Christmas promises.

Isaiah prophesied:

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone. (Isaiah 9:2 ESV).

What a blinding revelation of God’s glory as the Light of Christ shot through the darkness into a Bethlehem night.

So many missed it, though.  So many didn’t see.

But the angels declared it.  The shepherds worshiped. The wise men followed.

And Zechariah sang a song of praise to God at his own son’s birth because he knew the Light was coming:

Through the heartfelt mercies of our God,
God’s Sunrise will break in upon us,
Shining on those in the darkness,
those sitting in the shadow of death,
Then showing us the way, one foot at a time,
down the path of peace (Luke 1:78-79 MSG).    

Maybe I enjoy my son’s pronouncements that the Christmas decorations are “pretty” because I need the reminder to actually look and see.

Too often I’m the one missing it instead of following His glory like Zechariah and those angels and shepherds and wise men long ago.

This year might have worn us down.  It might have exhausted our souls and depleted our reserves of hope.

We’re so desperate for His Light in our darkness.

This week I read in the Psalms a verse that perfectly described my heart this year:

My eyes strain to see your rescue, to see the truth of your promise fulfilled.  Psalm 119:123

We want to see.  We desperately, deeply want to see promises fulfilled, rescue coming, salvation here, prayers answered.

Yet, still we wait.

Advent reminds me to keep looking, keep straining my eyes to see, keep hunting for the Light like it’s the greatest treasure and the truest longing of my soul.

Because Advent is all about the longing, the seeking and searching, the expectant wait and the assurance that the promises are fulfilled.

Christ indeed came.

God’s people didn’t wait forever.

Finally, in God’s perfect timing, the Light cut through the darkness and it shone on His people.

But here’s what else I realize as my son points to the “pretty” lights…

Sometimes we need others to reveal the light for us.

Just like we languish in the darkness, just like we long for hope, for joy, for peace, so do those around us.

And maybe this year, instead of worrying over the darkness ourselves, we can help point to the Light just as Zechariah did in his song of praise.  Just like the angels did as they declared “Glory to God in the Highest.”

Just as the shepherds did as they ran out of the stable to tell everyone about “this thing that has happened.”

Just as the wise men did as they laid their gifts before the small Messiah.

The joy of the light isn’t just in the seeing; it’s in the sharing.

May we see the Light of Christ cut through the darkness this year.

May we also share the Light of Christ, may we seek out ways to be light so that others can learn to see, too.

I Have Wrestled with the Light


I have wrestled with light against darkness this year and I have won.

But it was a hard-earned victory, so while I have conquered, I am weary.

Maybe you have fought this fight, too?

I was full of expectant hope when I plugged in our pre-lit tree. I wanted the easy victory.  Put the tree together, plug it in, and enjoy the beauty.

Now at first I didn’t want this pre-lit tree because of the risk and the danger of one day plugging it in and seeing only darkness.  I wanted the old-fashioned kind of artificial tree where you wrap the lights yourself.

When we went tree shopping several years ago, though, pre-lit was the only option at the store.  And so far, we had decorated with ease.

But this year I saw my prophecy fulfilled, a pre-lit tree full of lights that didn’t work.

It was a struggle, intense and long and not without its share of scars, but I overcame the darkness, pulling out the old and dead, even cutting it away at times, all so I could bring in the new, the fresh and the full-of-light.

Having conquered the tree, I moved onto other decorations the next day:  The garland outside, with lights wound around it still from last year–only half of those lights turned on, too.

And the garland inside that I drape over the mirrors—no lights working there either.

These decorations are tried and tested in our home.  They are exactly measured to the spaces they fill and most years I can simply lift them into place and plug them in.

Voila.  Christmas beauty.

Not this year.

So I had to decide. Fight the fight?  Hunt relentlessly for the bulb I need to replace to get this light strand shining again?

Or concede defeat from the beginning, untangle the dead lights from the garland and replace it with a new strand?

For years, I chose the hunt.

But usually I ended a thirty minute wrestling match with the light strand with my hands cut to pieces, broken fingernails galore, and absolutely drained of Christmas cheer plus this:  a still-broken string of lights because I never found the offending bulb.

Now, I choose to protect my joy and replace the lights instead.  For about $5, I am a happier mom at Christmas time.

That’s how it went this year, having to unwind and undo just so I could rewind and redo.

I fought an epic battle.  I twisted and tossed. I wrangled and wrestled.

Finally, I won.

I have light and I am pleased.  My kids ooh and aahh.


And how we have had to fight this year.  

Have you?

I have attended the funerals.

I have prayed for those who lost their children.

I have listened to the bitter hurt of mourning and sadness.

I have sat by hospital beds and carried meals and prayed for dear friends with cancer.

I have reminded myself over and over of this: first things first–in the crushing busyness of the schedule, I choose Christ before all, and this is hard and it is yet another fight.

And right there in the midst of all that darkness, I look for His Light.

Because this is what God promises.

John tells us:

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it (John 1:5 ESV).

Later in his life, John writes it again:

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all (1 John 1:5 ESV).



He is light, and in seasons of desperate darkness, what we need is Him.

In the dark, maybe we feel the strangling hold of fear. Maybe we feel disappointed and discouraged.  Maybe deeply saddened and hopeless.

But the Psalmist reminds us:

“To you the night shines as bright as day.  Darkness and light are the same to you”  Psalm 139:12

God is not afraid, not of this darkness, not of the unseen or the unknown, not of the long night or the battle and the struggle.

Darkness and light: it’s all the same to Him, because He Himself is the light we need.

He shines through.

This Christmas, may we insist on seeing the Light.

May we open our eyes wide and ask for His presence, His light to shine, His glory to be seen.



20 Bible Verses and a Prayer for Christmas


Every Christmas Eve, my dad read us the Christmas story, Luke chapters 1 and 2, from the big golden family Bible in the original King James.  I still hear his voice…I still hear the words.

If you’d like to read the full Christmas story, you can find two famous passages in the Gospels: Luke 1-2  and Matthew 1-2.

Here, though, are 20 of my favorite Christmas Bible verses from the Old and New Testaments, reminding us of the Savior, the season, the gift…

  • Isaiah 7:14 NIV
    Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.
  • Isaiah 9:2 ESV
    The people who walked in darkness
        have seen a great light;
    those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
        on them has light shone.
  • Isaiah 9:6-7 NIV
    For to us a child is born,
        to us a son is given,
        and the government will be on his shoulders.
    And he will be called
        Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,

        Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
    Of the greatness of his government and peace
        there will be no end.
    He will reign on David’s throne
        and over his kingdom,
    establishing and upholding it
        with justice and righteousness
        from that time on and forever.
    The zeal of the Lord Almighty
        will accomplish this.

  • Isaiah 11:1-5 NIV

    A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;
        from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.
    The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—
        the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
        the Spirit of counsel and of might,
        the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord
    and he will delight in the fear of the Lord.

    He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes,
        or decide by what he hears with his ears;
    but with righteousness he will judge the needy,
        with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth.
    He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth;
        with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked.
    Righteousness will be his belt
        and faithfulness the sash around his waist.

  • Micah 5:2 NIV
    “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
        though you are small among the clans of Judah,
    out of you will come for me
        one who will be ruler over Israel,
    whose origins are from of old,
        from ancient times.”
  • Matthew 1:21 NIV
    She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.
  • Matthew 1:23 NIV
    “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). 
  • Luke 1:30-31 NIV
    But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus.
  • Luke 1:37 ESV
     For nothing will be impossible with God.
  • Luke 1:45 NIV
     Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!
  • Luke 2:10-14 NIV
    But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
  • John 1:14 ESV
    And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
  • For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

  • 2 Corinthians 9:15 NIV
     Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!
  • Galatians 4:4-5 NIV
    But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law,to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship.
  • Philippians 2:5-7 ESV
    Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,  who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,  but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.
  • Colossians 1:15-20 ESV
     He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by[a] him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.
  • 1 Timothy 1:15-16 ESV
    The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.16 But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.
  • Titus 3:4-5 NLT
    But—When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.
  • 1 John 4:9 ESV
    In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.


I have wrestled with light

John 1-5

I have wrestled with light against darkness this year and I have won.

It was a hard-earned victory, though, so while I have conquered, I am weary.

For a start, I slipped together the parts of our pre-lit Christmas tree, plugged it in and noticed burnt-out bulbs dotting the tree here and there.

Only, I couldn’t find the replacement bulbs.  Anywhere.

So, I gave up.  Most of the lights still worked, so I loaded that tree full of colorful beads and family ornaments.

Then, deep down in the bottom of the Rubbermaid ornament container, I discovered the baggy holding the new light bulbs.

(Note to self:  It’s easier to replace lights on a tree when it doesn’t have ornaments all over it.  Next year, make sure the lights are on top of the ornaments in the box.) 

I finish the tree and move on to new things.

We have lived in our home now for 11 years.  I have the Christmas decorating pretty much down to a well-rehearsed performance.

The garlands and lights are already strung together.

The strategically placed bows tell me where the corners sit when they are hung.

So, I just lift this Christmas greenery onto the nails that are in the same place as last year and the year before that and years and years back.

I plug the lights in.

And, voila.  Christmas beauty in our home.

Only some years I am not so lucky.  I plug in the strand of lights and it is dark.  Dead.

Then I have to decide. Fight the fight?  Hunt relentlessly for the bulb I need to replace to get this light strand shining again?

Or concede defeat from the beginning, untangle the dead lights from the garland and replace it with a new strand?

For years, I chose the hunt.

But usually I ended a thirty minute wrestling match with the light strand with my hands cut to pieces, broken fingernails galore, and absolutely drained of Christmas cheer plus this:  a still-broken string of lights because I never found the offending bulb.

So, now, I choose to protect my joy and replace the lights instead.  For about $5, I am a happier mom at Christmas time.

This year, though, my struggle has taken on new forms.

It was all of 40-some degrees out this morning with a bone-chillingly cold rain falling and I stood there in my heavy sweatshirt battling the light.

Somehow this year when I hang that same-old garland in the same-old place with those same-old lights, it didn’t fit.  I either had too many lights or too few.

I do not know how this happened.

So, I have been working at this for days now because of our insanely busy schedule and the uncooperative weather.

Today, I have decided, is the day that I end this.  I will win.  In the rain.  In the cold.  I do not care.

So, I stretch and twist and wind that light around the garland, get to the end, plug the lights in….and half the lights don’t work.

These are the lights I just tested three days ago when they worked just fine.

So, I fight.  I dig around the Christmas boxes until I find the replacement lights and I begrudgingly search for the burned out bulb because this year….this year, I will not be defeated.

Finally, I win.

I do not have the most beautifully or elaborately decorated home by anyone’s standard, but I do have light, and I am pleased.

Because light is worth fighting for.

And how we have had to fight this year.  

Have you?

I have attended the funerals.

I have prayed for those who lost their children.

I have listened to the bitter hurt of mourning and sadness.

I have reminded myself over and over of this: first things first–in the crushing busyness of the schedule, I choose Christ before all, and this is hard and it is yet another fight.

I have calmed my daughter down again and again and again when she frets over ISIS and terrorists and whether she is safe.

And right there in the midst of all that darkness, I look for His Light.

Because this is what God promises.

John tells us:

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it (John 1:5 ESV).

Later in his life, John writes it again:

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all (1 John 1:5 ESV).

Even in the pitchest black of the darkest night one shiny bulb can split through that darkness with fierce determination.

Even in the pitchest black of your darkest night, God can split through that darkness because Light is Who He Is.

This Christmas, seek His light.


Christmas Devotions: When you find something good, don’t keep it to yourself

It’s an annual surprise.

Some afternoon, usually in March, I hang up my gray winter coat for the last time of the season.

There’s no official ceremony or anything and the groundhog’s shadow-predictions never prove perfectly accurate.

It’s just a simple thing.  One day I casually drape my coat across the hook in my closet and there it lingers through spring, summer and fall.

Then, on a morning (usually in November), I stop deceiving myself into thinking that sweaters are enough to keep my teeth from chattering.  I reach past my fall jacket in the closet, pull down that same wool coat from its trusty hook, slip my hands into the sleeves and dip my hand into the pocket.

Whatever I left there eight months before is what I’ll discover on that first pocket search of the winter season.christmas13

I’ve pulled out Mom-things, like pacifiers and baby socks (don’t all moms pop baby socks into pockets)?

Grocery store receipts unfold like magician’s handkerchiefs—always one more emerges from hidden corners.

There are pens and paper clips, ticket stubs, rocks for my daughter’s collection, hair clips and ponytail holders, cough drops, and maybe even tissues (unused, thankfully).

There’s generally little treasure among the trash.  Mostly my life out and about with my kids consists of periodically dumping the overflow of their stuff into my pockets when my hands are full.

Occasionally, though, I reach into that winter coat for the first time in November and pull out coins.  Better yet, a dollar or two or three….or even ten.

That’s enough to make this girl happy dance in the middle of my closet.

Then, pulling myself together, I announce the news to my kids, post a happy-face announcement on Facebook and tell my husband the story later that night.

Discoveries, after all, are meant for sharing.  They’re the kind of spill-all-over joy that we can’t keep quiet about.

Maybe that’s how the Shepherds felt standing on that darkened hillside with snoring sheep.

Perhaps it even explains what the angels were doing, singing their praise songs in the night sky to an audience of somnolent herdsman about a Savior being born.

All of heaven exploded with the “good news that will cause great joy for all the people!” (Luke 2:9), the Messiah, the Lord.  They couldn’t contain the excitement!

One angel made the announcement, but others crowded the sky and joined in the chorus: “Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God” (Luke 2:13).

The angel’s joyful news sent the shepherds tumbling all over themselves to see “this thing that has happened, which the Lord had told us about” (Luke 2:15).

When we hear good news, don’t we long to see with our own eyes, to experience this joy ourselves? 

That’s what sharing our testimony does: it ignites passion, it incites curiosity, it encourages a searching and finding of the truth, the Savior, of salvation.

Then, when the shepherds found the manger and peered over the corners at the baby-King, “they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them” (Luke 2:17-18).

They had discovered Jesus and no way could they keep that quiet.

No matter how many times Jesus asked those he healed in his ministry to keep quiet about it, still they rushed home and called up the local newspaper to tell their story.

Jesus himself finally told one man to:

“Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you”  Mark 5:19.

Surely his story is our story, too.  We have this testimony, of what He has done and the mercy He has shown.

Our God-stories, the discoveries of how He’s been so good to us, those moments of amazing grace and unexpected mercy in the middle of the daily grind, are all meant to be shared with others.

And the miracle of Christmas is ours to tell and ours to share; it’s the hope that others need and the joy this desperate world is searching for.

So, sing it!  So, tell it!  Don’t let that familiar feel of your salvation, the way apathy closes us in a cozy blanket of complacency, ever let us overlook the awe of this:

God loved us so.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  John 3:16

Originally posted October 19, 2012