Silent Nights

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…

I love Christmas music! I have a playlist on my phone that I listen to throughout the year, and I recently heard a song that made me pause and consider. It is both wistful and hopeful:

In your silent night, when you’re not alright
Lift your eyes and behold him.
Feel the thrill of hope.
You are not alone.
In this moment, behold him…

Behold Him, Francesca Battistelli

A few years ago, weary in the midst of the season, I wrote a post titled When Holidays Hurt. ( The feedback I received assured me that it resonated with many people. Holidays can be hard and hurtful. The post recounted the thoughts, sounds, and sights of a busy medical clinic as people lined up, waiting for help and hope in the midst of their holiday stress and hardship. Little has changed since then.

But in 2020, the world was put on pause by a global pandemic. I know no one, absolutely no one…who wasn’t deeply impacted by tragedy or loss in the years that followed. Depression and anxiety soared to new heights. The ripple of the mental health crisis was felt far and wide as record numbers were hospitalized and many, in desperation, disillusionment, or confusion…took their own lives.

Fear and suspicion seemed the new normal in many lives. Social and political unrest escalated. The economy tanked. Many relationships changed forever. Many felt overwhelmed at the loss of security and control. People lost their jobs, their financial resources, even their loved ones. Many people lost their hope. Some lost their lives.

Wise King Solomon himself said it: There is nothing new under the sun. Hurt is universal, and brokenness a core part of the human condition. But certain situations and seasons seem more brutal and heartless than others. Tragedy and loss are no respecters of boundaries, lifestyle, wishes, secure homes, social status, or devout faith.

 In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.

Jesus, John 16:33

In your silent night, when you’re not alright...

Read those words again. Do they, at first, seem a little sad? Lonely? And haven’t we all struggled through times when we just simply were NOT okay? There’s even a cliché: It’s okay to not be okay.

What do you think of when you read that phrase: silent night? I’m an introvert. I like silence. Many times silence is peaceful and restorative. Other times, silence roars with accusation: You’re all alone! No one sees you! No one hears you! Nobody cares! It feels deafening, so we fight it. We struggle and we yearn for noise and for an answer. A voice speaking into our darkness or situation.

There’s another song: Silent night, holy night! All is calm, all is bright.

It’s not my favorite. Was the silence of the very first Christmas really calm and bright? Or might it have felt heavy and weary? The slow, tired thuds of donkey feet plodding along a wearying journey, down a long dark dusty road? Not silent. How about the sounds of slamming doors and the words: no room for you here. Not silent. What about the echoing sounds of accusation and rejection felt along the way? Deafening. The cries of a girl in childbirth? A baby thrust into a cold, cruel world? Not silent. A King stepping down from his throne? You could hear a pin drop. There it is! The grand and holy moment of silence…as the world momentarily held its breath.

But…I suggest that it really wasn’t a silent night at all. In fact, there had been four hundred years of biblical silence…suddenly shattered by a baby’s cry.

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.

John 1:14

To some, the Word may have presented as a muted whisper, but to the weary expectant world it reverberated like a shout! A thrill of hope.

It’s easy to forget that young Mary and Joseph were faced with an incredible dilemma in the world’s eyes: young, devout Jews, betrothed but unmarried, expectant. In her prayer in Luke 1:47-48, young bewildered Mary expressed hope as well as anyone before or since:

My soul glorifies the Lord  and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for He has been mindful of the humble state of his servant.

Mary lifted her eyes. She saw herself positionally, humbly. More importantly, she knew He hadn’t forgotten her. He was mindful of all she was going through. He had, in fact, chosen her to serve. To walk her specific journey.

Lift your eyes and behold him. Feel the thrill of hope…

But what is this thrill of hope? And how do we find it?

Maybe in the words of Matthew 1:23… They shall call his name Immanuel (which means, God with us). No longer a far off untouchable God. No longer veiled behind a curtain or limited access through the educated or those with titles, but God with us. Even better…God in us.

You are not alone. In this moment, behold him…

Our culture encourages us to be independent, to not need anyone, to make our own decisions…often regardless of the impact it has on others or even our our long-term stability and welfare. But alone is a hard place to be.

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

And Paul told us in Galatians 6:2 to bear one another’s burdens. The picture is actually to stoop down, pick up, support the entire weight of it, and to carry it away.

Sometimes the harder question is this: do we let others support us in our hardship and calamity? Bear our burden? Share the load? Often in laying down the load, we must last down pride, secrecy, and self-sufficiency with it. Then we are no longer alone.

I have sat with many hurting people. Some in silence. Some in the midst of chaos and cacophony. Some side by side, others from the outside but still ever aware of their suffering and pain amid both the noise and the silence. And sometimes the greatest gift comes in those fragile moments. The gift of presence. The gift of care. The gift of acknowledgement: it matters. The gift that says I may or may not understand…but you are not alone.

In your silent night, when you’re not alright...

So I have a question. It’s not, are you alright? It is: What is your silence? In your silent night, when you’re not alright… What is that silence that shouts above all the other noises of the season? A devastating loss? The absence of a loved one? An empty seat at the table, a stocking unhung, a phone not ringing, a voice unheard?

Maybe the silence of rejection? A severed relationship? The call you wish would come or the hug not given. Feeling unseen, minimized, marginalized?

The silence of a painful secret? An unmet need? What you wish others could see and know?

Maybe an even bigger question: Is it really silent? Or is it shouting, rumbling, and reverberating throughout all the empty corridors of your life?

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

Jesus, John 10:10

So what’s the point of all these words? Just thinking, I suppose. And remembering faces and words and situations that have echoed throughout the year. Some hope-filled, others in the midst of devastation and hopelessness. Hope is a precious gift. Love is priceless. Praying you give and receive much in this season. God bless.

Born to seek and born to save
Born to take our pain away
God with us, Emmanuel
In his arms, all will be well

In your silent night
When you’re not alright
Lift your eyes and behold him
Feel the thrill of hope
You are not alone
In this moment, behold him.
King forevermore
Come let us adore
Christ our savior, behold hi

Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord. -Luke 1:45

A Thrill of Hope…

I hope 2021 is better…I hope this virus goes away…I hope no one I love gets terribly sick…I hope we can start meeting together again soon…I hope my child will start making better decisions…I hope my candidate wins the election...

Those are just a few of the hope-filled sentiments and wishes I have heard in the last few months. What a long, strange year it has been. Such a hard season. Months teeming with questions without answers, conflicts without resolutions, information without facts, fears without explanation, and loss without mercy.

No doubt, 2020 has been a hard year for so many. I have seen, heard, and walked with friends through some incredibly hard battles this year. In fact, I don’t remember a time when I have witnessed more grief, conflict, loss, and despair than during this 2020 year. Job loss, financial instability, physical and mental health crisis, prodigal children, divorce, relationship conflict, hopelessness, death of loved ones, and so much more. I know very few people who have not faced a major battle or devastating loss this year.

But even as I typed the title, A Thrill of Hope, I was transported back to 2018…another very hard year for me personally. The details aren’t important…just that it passed and my family survived. And maybe lessons were learned and hope held us like an anchor throughout the stormy season. No, it did more than hold. It actually steadied and then redirected. Set a new course. Maybe it actually wasn’t harder than 2020. Maybe it was just somewhat of a great shaking and awakening to the fact that I really wasn’t in control of as much as I thought I was. That I was vulnerable. And too comfortable. A reminder that what seems fine on the surface can really hide darkness and pain. And in this world we will have trouble… No one is immune.

In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.

-Jesus, John 16:33

Sometimes a word or phrase of inspiration comes from an unlikely place. Earlier in November 2018, my daughter had been asked to brainstorm an idea about a theme for an upcoming Christmas program. She suggested four simple, but well-known words from the beloved Christmas song, O Holy Night: a weary world rejoices… That’s the word I was looking for and didn’t even know until she spoke it: weary. I was weary.

Fast forward to December 2018 and we packed the car and took a mother-daughter trip halfway across the country. Well…to Waco, Texas. At the time I was still reeling from some major conflicts and disappointments, but the trip had already been scheduled, so away we went. The Silos, in downtown Waco, had been on my daughter’s radar for quite some time. Not knowing what to expect, when we arrived I felt like puzzle pieces had fallen into place when we discovered another four simple words had been chosen for their Christmas theme: A thrill of hope…

hope /hōp/ noun – a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen; a feeling of trust. / verb – to cherish a desire with anticipation; to want something to happen or be true, or for the best; to expect with confidence.

A thrill of hope…the weary world rejoices…

It was a great trip: a new place filled with new sights, sounds, and excitement. There was quality time with my girl. There was quiet time to reflect, read, and pray. And there was something new…a thrill of hope. An expectation. A faint quiver or stirring in my soul that hinted that being in a dark or desperate place was simply temporary. A passing place. An opportunity to see even the faintest flicker of light all the brighter. A place of hope.

Fast forward to Christmas 2020… The world is weary. Ten months deep in the midst of a global pandemic, fear, confusion, isolation, and suspicion have been draped over many weary souls like foul-smelling, constricting grave clothes, suffocating life and light. People are walking and living in the land of deep darkness. A land of loss.

Our local hospitals are full. Dark and full of despair. People are waiting in emergency rooms for days on end to be placed in rooms. I have seen physical death in the hospital where I work, in local and global news, among friends, and even in my own family. I have sat with, texted, and Zoomed with both the frightened and the fearless, the deniers and the conspiracy theorists, faithful believers and those without hope. The world is weary. My town is weary. My coworkers are weary. My friends are weary. I am weary. We are waiting. For what? An answer, a cure, a respite from the merciless hours of fears, questions, arguments, and excuses? Relief?

Looking through my pictures from Waco, I found this one I snapped of a fireplace in the gift shop. Above it hung a sign that read:

Anticipation is the feeling of hopeful expectation, believing in the magic of what has been and what might be again. This we know to be true: there is wonder in the waiting.

There is wonder in the waiting. I think we miss that as adults. As children, we wonder who our new teacher will be. Will we make new friends at school? What will be waiting under the Christmas tree? Who will I marry when I grow up? Where will I live and what will I do for a living? We hope, we expect, we dream. At least for a season. And even when we are hurt and dreams are shattered…We move on. We forgive. We try to forget. And hopefully…we continue to hope.

We believe in the magic… Well, maybe not the magic. But how about the good? We believe in and we remember the good of what has been and what might be again. We remember carefree times we took for granted: huddled in close for coffee and secrets with our best friend, laughing and good times with our small circles, long hugs, cheek kisses, and shared tears. Even the hard times weren’t so hard because we were together…and we had hope. Dare we believe in the magic of what has been and what might be again? When we kiss and embrace and gather and laugh with no fear of sickness and suspicion. When we gather and worship and shake hands and sing hymns and worship freely. When we stop and chat and share our good news and blessings with our neighbors…or a stranger at the store. When we see one another’s smiles unveiled and unhindered. I miss the hugs. I miss the smiles. I miss the carefree conversation with no mention of politics and pandemics.

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.

Isaiah 9:2

Those are prophetic words found in the book of Isaiah. Words promising hope of a future salvation and deliverance. And while those words were written thousands of years ago, they feel timeless. The 2020 readers’ version could be: We are those people…walking and living in a land and time of deep darkness.

In biblical history, there were about 400 years between the last Old Testament prophet and the angel appearing to announce the arrival of Jesus. 400 years! Day after day, night after night of cold, prolonged, seemingly never-ending silence. And what is silence but auditory darkness? Emptiness. Hopelessness. Were they weary? Trudging through the mundane. Or were they ever-watchful and hopeful for their Deliverer and Savior?

A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices. For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn…

So, yes, we believe in and we remember the good of what has been and what might be again. But more than that…we believe that a light has shone on our darkness…and we will again live and walk in that light.

…and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)

It’s almost Christmas. Is it coincidence that in this dark season, we experienced the appearance and the wonder of the “Christmas star” in the sky for the first time in 800 years? Or dare we believe that it is a promise and a beacon of hope?

What has 2020 looked like for you? Were your plans stalled? Life interrupted? Events postponed and people scattered? What have you lost? Time? Money? Security, schedules, vacations? Maybe something much more substantial: a friend or family member…

Loss makes us weary and uncertain at times. Grieve the losses. Remember the good. Grieving is therapeutic and remembering is essential. It says it mattered. We believe in and we remember the good of what has been and what might be again. May we be ever-watchful and hopeful…choosing to see the works of God on our behalf in this season. And may we hold onto the great gift of hope.

Driving alone on a cold, dreary day, I recently heard a song that I felt encompassed the heart of the 2020 Christmas season:

In your silent night, when you’re not alright. lift your eyes and behold him. Feel the thrill of hope. You are not alone. In this moment, behold him…King forevermore, come let us adore, Christ our Savior, behold him.

Francesca Battistelli, Behold Him

We have no way of knowing what 2021 will hold. But in this moment, I choose hope. And I choose to have eyes that see God’s past faithfulness and blessing. Praying that the Light shines in your darkness wherever you are. You are never alone. Lift your eyes. We have hope and light and life. God bless and Merry Christmas.

When Holidays Hurt

I’ve been feeling it in the air for awhile now… Days are shorter, nights are longer. Skies are darker and breezes are colder. Changing seasons and impending holidays are often harsh, stinging reminders of loss and loneliness.


The evening grows long as I look out across the waiting room and see the many sad or sick faces waiting patiently…or not. Some fidget, sigh, and look at invisible watches on their wrists. Some stare blankly into the unreachable distance or at the monotonous pattern of the enclosing four walls, perhaps replaying old scenes or longed-for visions. Some stare absently into their phones for distraction, relief, or escape. Still they wait. I know many of their stories before they utter a word. I know their history or I read their eyes. I watch their shoulders slump, their hands fidget, their lips frown or faintly quiver. I feel the weight and the want and the weariness.


“It’s the most wonderful time of the year!” plays through the overhead speaker, piped in like a merry elf entertaining ideas of fun, frivolity, and lightheartedness, in denial of the pain, the longing, and the loss that the season brings to so many people.

The door opens and closes. Another name, another face, another story. There’s the familiar cloak of usual sickness: flu, sore throat, bumps, and bruises. Those are easy. Passing pain, sickness, or inconvenience that at least offers the hope of speedy relief and healing. But hanging heavy on the heads and shoulders of many are weightier garments: coverings made of death, disease, dysfunction. There’s divorce, abandonment, rejection, loss of dreams and other not-so-merry reminders in every piped in song, well-placed decoration, and carefully thought out department store diorama.

His wife was just found dead. Her husband lost a long battle with cancer. Children’s Services is involved. Her dad kicked her and told her not to tell. Her daughter has run away. Her son is in jail. It’s two weeks before Thanksgiving. He just lost his job. Their house burned to the ground. The Alzheimer’s is so much worse. Hospice has been called in.Third DUI. Arrested for heroin. Suicide. It’s almost Christmas.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.   Matt 11:28


I’ve been told it’s like a walking a treadmill…walking and climbing and struggling but never getting anywhere. Three steps forward and two steps back. But still they put one foot in front of the other. Some days are harder. Holidays are harder: days meant to gather and celebrate with people you love and people who love you. A time to reflect on blessings and health, the past and the future. So much to celebrate and be thankful for. But there are some who sit in quiet rooms all alone. There are some who sit in loud, clamorous rooms with many others, but are still alone. There are some who sit facing those who have mistreated, rejected, abused, or betrayed them. There are some who sit facing empty chairs of those who have left them through death or abandonment.

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Matt 9:36


What does it look like to offer hope to the hopeless, rest for the weary, compassion for the hurting, and comfort for the grieving? Is there ministry in hearing, caring, and simply being present? What do you do when there’s no written prescription to ease the pain of heartbreak and loss and devastation? No first aid kit to stop the bleeding or cover the wound? No tender kiss to make it all better?

From the end of the earth I call to You, when my heart is overwhelmed and weak; Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.  Psalm 61:2

It has been a slow, humbling process…the realization that I don’t have all the answers. The fixer in me can’t fix all the hurt, restore all the loss, patch all the holes, or fill the empty seats.  I can’t and I’m not meant to. And with that, another realization… that it’s okay. I don’t have to be the great fixer, the final answer, a redemptive savior. I can’t be.


But what can I do? What can anyone do to make a difference in a world with so much hurt and loss and fear and hopelessness and uncertainty? Is it enough to have eyes that see and ears that hear? To give a gift that is both free and priceless: to be seen and heard, recognized, and acknowledged? Validated and assured that they matter, that their struggles are real, that their hearts and lives are important, that someone cares, and more importantly, that there is hope?  Yes, it matters. It all matters. I can be a hand to hold. I can choose to extend a hand that reaches, lifts, holds, supports, gives. A hand to guide, to direct, to point to the truth that they are fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of a God that loves them and wants to fill the empty places and the empty seats. I can be a voice. A voice that speaks truth and dispels lies and speaks words of encouragement and validation. And I can just be. I can sit in the ashes, care in the silence, be light in the darkness, and warmth in the cold season of the soul. I can offer hope in the simple ministry of being present and attentive. I can care.

I can love. ❤