What if all is not well at Christmas?

Can I give you permission today, dear reader?

Sometimes permission is what we’re looking for.

Permission to stop.

Permission to do less.

Permission to not have a perfect Christmas.

After all, the first Christmas was far from perfect.

Things were far from well in Bethlehem 2000 years ago. There were no epidurals. No postpartum care. No layettes or pacifiers or lactation consultants or swings that would rock a crying baby when arms are plum wore out.

There was fear of a baby-killing king, life on the run, ostracization from people who didn’t understand that you really were a virgin when you conceived, and that Joseph really was a decent man.

More than that, the infant you carry in a sling next to your heart was not the sort of Messiah people were looking for. Sure, the angel appeared and told you not to fear, but what’s not to fear about a fragile newborn who has nothing to give but cries?

Maybe you have nothing to give but tears this year, either, dear reader.

Or maybe your arms are plum wore out from holding everyone else up but yourself.

And maybe, that’s right where you’re supposed to be.

Worn out, wrung out, and in need of the only One who can help you up.



We know how the story turned out. The infant grew in wisdom and stature and was nailed to a tree and bled and died and rose again. The Emmanuel who reduced Himself to  human form came then, and He has never left us since.

He didn’t fix the mess, but He made a way to fix our hearts.

The world is still broken in pieces, but He made a way to put us back together.

Life still hurts, but He hurts with us.

All is well, not because life is tied up neat and pretty with a big red, velvet bow, but because we have a Savior who makes a way for us to find joy in the midst and who never leaves us alone.

I think that’s why Emmanuel is my favorite word at Christmastime, and all year round.

He is here.

That’s why you can let go of the pressure to buy more gifts or send more cards or spend more money. That’s why it’s okay to feel weary and raw and avoid the malls and the parties and the loud and the noise. (It’s okay to do all that, too, of course, if you enjoy it. But for a lot of folks, a season of fullness is a reminder of all that’s been lost.)

You can stop.

You can do less.

You don’t have to have a perfect Christmas.

Find a place where you can click on and listen to the song below, All is Well.

And know that you are well because of Emmanuel, in spite of the chaos all around you.

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” ~2 Corinthians 12:9

emmanuel. an advent poem. a Christmas prayer.

for the Mary Magdalene who waits

for a babe to become a man


for the woman at the well who seeks

water from His hand


for the one who mourns


for the one who grieves


for the one who offers grace


for the one who’s never known its taste


for the one who aches from a life of lies


for the one who chooses Truth


for the one who’s broken free


for the one who runs toward justice


and the one on bended knee





Christmas is not an armistice

divinity runs much deeper than a day

Christmas came most of all for the ones

who have nothing left to say

courage, if any, they have left


as a whisper

a breath

a prayer


be with me now

be with me






Mary Magdalene, by He Qi


“Fear not then,” said the Angel,
“Let nothing you affright,
This day is born a Saviour
Of a pure Virgin bright,
To free all those who trust in Him
From Satan’s power and might.”
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy

~from God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen

o come o come: a variation on Emmanuel

across the ocean blue and yellow flags scrape the sky in search of  peace

O come, O come, Emmanuel

across town a child, hungry, weeps

And ransom captive Israel

asleep on streets and under bridges
in hospice rooms and hermetic kitchens

That mourns in lonely exile here

silver bells ring empty

Until the Son of God appear

change clangs against cold red buckets


and then


an arm embraces


a hand reaches

Shall come to thee

a breath speaks hope

O Israel