Advent Special: Not So Silent Night

Christian Life & Theology, Podcast Episodes

In this special Christmas episode Phylicia shares two pieces from her Advent series on the problem of evil and a special devotional piece on the personal nature of God’s grace. For more writing like this, join Phylicia’s email list at


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The Every Woman A Theologian winter collection is here, and I am so excited for all of our new offerings. We have some new books such as The Sex Talk You Never Had, which is an updated and revised version of my popular book on purity, pornography, and a biblical sexual ethic called Christian Cosmo. Also have our new offering from Jeremy Jenkins of All Things, All People called Should Christians Practice Yoga. This is a part of our quick theology series, a series of little booklets that are only $6 in the print version, $3 for the ebook version, and I know you’re going to love Jeremy’s balanced and wise approach to this topic. You can also check out Good News is Coming by my friend, Preselis Perrault Dominguez. This is an amazing children’s book about the gospel, and it’s in both English and Spanish. These are just the books, you guys. We also have all of our great Verity home offerings, all of our Bible in a Year products. You’ve got to check it out, you can head over to, and it will take you straight to the Winter collection.

Welcome to Verity podcast. I’m your host, Phylicia Masonheimer, and I am here to teach you how to know what you believe, to live it boldly, and to communicate it graciously to the world around you. I believe that women are ready to go deeper in their faith than ever before, and they don’t have to go to seminary to do it. I am so glad you’re here, and I hope you’ll join me on this journey because every woman is a theologian. 


Hello, friends, and welcome back to Verity podcast. This week, We’re taking a little break from the church history series to do a special Christmas episode. We are in the last week of Advent.

And as we look forward to Christmas day, this coming Monday, I wanted to release an episode highlighting some of what I’ve shared in the Advent series that has been going out over the last two and a half weeks. I hope that this special episode encourages you. It is a combination of multiple devotionals from the Advent Email series and a newsletter that I sent this week on the topic of God’s grace. I hope you enjoy it.

Have you ever read the Christmas story in Revelation 12? Perhaps you didn’t know it was there. Perhaps you’re used to reading Luke 1 through 2 on Christmas Eve. Candles lit, silent night playing softly in the background. Revelation 12 is not so peaceful but then again neither was Christmas night.

While there are varied interpretations of Revelation the idea that Revelation 12 depicts the Christmas story is far from new. Hear it for yourself. A great sign appeared in heaven. A woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of 12 stars on her head. She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth. Then another sign appeared in heaven, an enormous red dragon with 7 heads And 10 horns and 7 crowns on its heads. Its tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth. The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth so that it might devour her child the moment he was born.

She gave birth to a son, a male child who will rule all the nations with an iron scepter. And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne. The woman fled into the wilderness to a place prepared for her by God, where she might be taken care of for 1,260 days. Then war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, And the dragon and his angels fought back, but he was not strong enough. And they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down that ancient serpent called the devil or Satan who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth and his angels with him.

Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say, now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Messiah. For the accuser of our brothers and sisters who accuses them before our God day and night has been hurled down. They triumphed over him by the blood of the lamb and by the word of their Simone. Revelation 12 1 through 11. 

Most scholars agree the woman in Revelation 12 is not Mary, But instead, it represents Israel, Mary included. The dragon’s tail sweeping 1 third of the stars is a callback to Lucifer’s fall, During which he took 1 third of the angelic realm. Revelation’s timeline is not linear. So there is a back and forth between present, past, and future, all each with its own interpretive challenges.

But the point is this, Christmas night was not as silent as we think it was. Evil was fighting tooth and nail against the birth of the God man, evidenced by Herod’s demonic massacre of the innocents in Matthew 2 16 through 18. It was this scene, the birth of Jesus surrounded by the death of Rachel’s children that originally sent me into my postpartum wrestling with the problem of evil. Did it have to be this way? Mary’s baby survived. My baby survives, but Rachel is left weeping for her children. It’s not fair. Evil is never fair. Evil doesn’t play fair.

And even in asking the question I found myself forgetful of Mary’s future. Yes, her baby was spared for a time. But he was not spared a later suffering. Her heart would be broken later. Rachel’s was broken on that Bethlehem night. In the spinning grief strangely felt as I held my living baby. I wondered if evil must exist for the world to be free and for love to be possible. And if God is going to defeat evil once and for all, what stops evil from rising once again? 

Norman Geissler gives a compelling answer to this in If God, Why Evil? Quote, since God, By his very nature, love cannot force anyone to love him. It would be highly improper to think of a heaven where people are forced to be there. 1st, there must be courtship, then two can be bound together for life. God had to give us lower freedom, freedom to do evil, in order to achieve a higher freedom for us, freedom from evil. Without the prior state of the freedom to sin, We could not properly and satisfactorily reach the higher state of freedom from sin. Lower level freedom in this world involves freedom to sin, the power of contrary choice. In heaven, we trade this lower freedom for a higher freedom, end quote.

Geisler is saying that God created a world in which love was possible. For love to be possible, there had to be the power to choose it which inevitably allows for the power to not choose it. Contrary choice. But those who choose God will dwell eternally with him, the way he intended in Eden. And in this new restored Eden, there will no longer be the option of rebellion or evil. Everyone who is there has already made the ultimate choice, and no more contrary choice will be possible nor will it be necessary. Why didn’t God do this from the get go? Again, you can’t have a loving relationship without freedom of choice. In a world where God did not offer this option of lower freedom before higher freedom. We would not have any desire for, or appreciation for, an eternity spent with a God we love. We couldn’t truly love him without free choice.

As Geisler says, one is not fit for the freedom from sin unless he has exercised the freedom to sin. For unless he has had the choice of good over evil, He is not ready for a place where good dominates and evil is defeated. Jesus was the ultimate good. God sent in the flesh. Goodness personified here to save man from himself. Will we choose back this ultimate goodness? Or will we choose self? Will we continue in the footsteps of Adam and Eve? Or will we walk by faith like Abel, like Abraham? Yes. This world cries out for good and perfect, but it is not ready for either of those things. The very thing our culture demands from God, a utopia, perfection, the end of evil.

They are unwilling to choose because they will not choose Christ. God gives people what they want. If they want a life and eternity without him, He will allow them to have it. He doesn’t want it for them. God does not desire that any should perish. But there is a spiritual war at play in this world. The many headed dragon still steals, kills, and destroys, John 10:10. But Jesus came to give life and life abundant for those who choose him back, who respond to the call of the spirit, he offers life and hope and peace and best of all, a place where evil no longer can live. Made for another world. Even knowing that scripture story is predicated on human choice. A choice bestowed by God’s sovereign ordination, and knowing that love is possible through such a responsive relationship. 

There are still limits on what we can know about why God allows suffering. God allows choice so that we can love him and be loved by him. There is no love that is not freely chosen. God permits evil so that love, joy and goodness can also exist. We may accept these things as truth and still struggle with what we see in the world.

Knowing love is experienced by allowing the power of contrary choice is a comfort, but it does not fully remove grief. At some point, we must accept that there are things about this world we do not understand. There are purposes higher than our minds can go. There is a permission, a redemption. We may not fully understand this side of heaven. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:8 through 9.

This world is not all there is. Since the fall, the world has not been tended to be what heaven is. We are angry at our world because it doesn’t look the way we wish. We do not want to experience suffering. Who does? But what this desire tells us is not that God is at fault, or that God doesn’t care, or that God has taken time off from redeeming. It tells us this world is not all there is. As CS Lewis famously put it if we find ourselves with the desire that nothing in this world can spy. The most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.

And we were. We were made for a world to come. A world we will experience. A world as real as our own. It is a world with vibrance and beauty, work and worship, relationships, homes feasting and music. It is everything this world is but better yet when I wonder at the empty, the hurt and pain, the envy of time unstained by evil I remember Restoration coming. The joy unmatched. The running to a life unstained by evil. All of Earth, but better yet.

All this, no pain. All this, no shame. All this, all gain. All this, all this, all this. The strength comes by admitting your need. I felt my chest tighten, frustration building, anger rising, a burning desire to clang pots and pans as I did the after dinner dishes. There was so much to do, so little time to do it. And time, what I need most these days, felt thin and not enough.

My children have no sense of time, particularly when the word bed is associated with it. I burned with indignation up to my elbows in a soapy baptismal. I heard the patter of feet in the upstairs hall. Again. Another climbing of the stairs. Another teaching moment. Another exercise of my waning patience. Another loss of minutes.

Precious minutes for manuscripts, for emails I should have sent, for dealing with devastating news. The kind that hangs in the back of your mind and doesn’t leave. It’s all still there, still needing an answer but my minutes are rushing out the door as fast as my children’s feet. I can’t do this in a puff of suds I dropped the saucepan into the sink and yanked on my farm boots Where are you going? Josh asked caught off guard, I just have to go outside And I did. I ran outside in flannel pajamas and hunter boots as far as I could walk into farmer Bob’s field. The Angus cows blinked through the fence, lowing and blending into the blackness of the northern night. It falls by 5 o’clock these days, darker with the gloom. For the last 3 years, our winters have been abysmal. I grew up with layers of fluffy white snow from October to April.

Now it comes and goes leaving sad brown landscapes and dreary skies. I stood by the silage pile, Arms crossed, staring at the blank black sky. And out loud to that sky, I said the first thing that came to mind. If only you would let it snow. It wasn’t really about the snow, but snow makes it better somehow. If it were white and pure and beautiful maybe the brown landscape of pain wouldn’t hurt so bad. Maybe what is wrong would feel a little more right. It was a breath of a prayer barely a request and I don’t check the weather so I didn’t know the forecast. I went back inside and slowly ascended the stairs.

Slowly, I opened the door to my children’s shared bedroom. They were not asleep, but they were quiet, silenced by my previous firm appearance. I’m sorry I was rude to you, I said. It was wrong of me to be angry even if you do need to stay in bed. Will you forgive me? Two of them bounded to their feet clutching cribs and blankets and cried in joyful unison. We forgive you, and we won’t hold it against you. We’d taught that phrase time and again. Laying down the rails of forgiveness seemingly unheard and fruitless.

But here it showed up like a crocus in May. I choked back the tears then heard another child tiptoe lightly across the floor wrapping little arms around my waist. I love you, she whispered. This is Grace, I thought. The next day, I woke up to a snowstorm. After weeks of rain and brown a snowstorm. After all my raging in my home at the sky even God saw fit to forgive me. You heard me, I whispered.

My burdens were not and are not gone. There are decisions to make, emails to write, conflicts to face. But he heard me and he cared as if to say in this world, you will have trouble. But take heart, I have overcome it all. What ends could not be met. Every need has met its end in thee. Until through triune outpouring of love so limitless, the gaps in my living are filled up by grace. Cover me white as winter, or there is no purity for me.

In the absence of my striving. Fall on me with grace like snow. The snow can’t cover the difficulty of what Monday held. Christmas can’t cure a 9 month old pain. Perhaps yours is older still. There is no way out but through when it comes to conflict and hard decisions. You and I must be strong. But the strength does not come from trying harder in an imperfect human will.

The strength comes by admitting weakness, by admitting need, by telling God what he already knows but wants to hear from your lips. If only you would let it snow. A tiny prayer, a tiny desire, a clear answer. Because God is kind, the little things we see in this world are him personally reminding us that his presence will go with us and give us rest. Exodus 33:14. Sometimes the most beautiful expressions of his grace are found in our failures. When we repent, when we admit fault, when we acknowledge that we are perfect and we cannot be like God. And God rather than driving home the point comes down to us.

We could not be like him. So he became like us in every way except sinfulness to show us the way home. I forgive you he said through the cross and I won’t hold it against you. I love you and this is Grace.

If you enjoyed this special episode, I invite you to join my weekly email newsletter, The Collectio, which contains writing of this style and a more reflective interaction with things of faith in scripture. You can join it at That’s


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