This morning I opened my Bible and considered the shepherds. 

“That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. ‘Don’t be afraid!’ he said. ‘I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!’” (Luke 2:8-11)

The past year has been challenging, to say the least.  We’ve experienced fear. People we love have been hit by COVID-19.  Others have lost their jobs. We’ve been isolated like never before. Ministries have been interrupted.  

So, what can we learn from the shepherds?

  1. Acknowledge your fear.

I admit it.  I’ve been afraid for my son who lives in close quarters in a maximum-security prison.  I fear for his protection from prison violence and from the virus.  

  1. Look for a message of hope.

Angels appeared to the shepherds, bringing good news and the promise of a better day. Today we have the Word of God that promises a future filled with His protection, companionship, and peace.

  1.  Tell everyone about Jesus.

Gene and I have a mission—through Speak Up for Hope, we have the privilege of bringing resources and encouragement to inmates and their families.  Through another wing of this ministry we’re training mil-spouses for global military evangelism and Bible teaching.  If you’d like to make a tax deductible year-end gift, click here and in the comment section, let us know if your gift is for prison ministry or for equipping global military missionaries. We appreciate you!

Hudson Taylor wrote: “Wave after wave of trial rolled over us; but at the end of the year some of us were constrained to confess that we had learned more of the loving-kindness of the Lord than in any previous year of our lives.”

All of us can admit:  This has been a tough year—but we choose HOPE!

Prayer: “Lord, in the middle of the unique and sometimes difficult challenges of this year, we’ve experienced anxiety and fear.  Right now, we open our hands and give to you what we cannot control. We hear your voice saying, ‘Fear not.’  We will read your Word and choose not to be anxious.  We will tell everyone we know about Jesus and spread the hope-filled message of the gospel. Amen.”

Question:  What have you learned about the loving-kindness of the Lord during this challenging year?


  1. Judy Cunningham on December 22, 2020 at 12:52 pm

    I have learned that prayer and patience is the survival tools needed.

  2. Marilyn Wallberg on December 23, 2020 at 7:55 am

    Greetings dear Carol and Gene.
    Yes, the year has caused us to have to choose how to live.
    John and I say, “We live by faith, not by fright.”
    My 96 year old mother died a week ago today. It was Covid. It was fast. but even when asking for prayer for her, I said, “When my mother leaves this earth it will be because the Lord called her, not because Covid took her.” The Lord has truly blessed me with being with her at the window and praying and singing her Home. I wrote her eulogy and gave at her celebration last Saturday. I’ve thought of you everytime I have said, “We’re living in a new kind of normal.” Christmas blessings to all! ❤️Marilyn Wallberg – –

  3. Shannon Popkin on December 23, 2020 at 7:57 am

    So thankful for you, as a purveyor of hope in my life, by sharing yours, Carol! Merry Christmas.

  4. Linda Daniel on December 23, 2020 at 8:24 am

    God Bless You Carol, Gene & Jason! Thank you & Merry CHRISTmas & I wish you a MUCH HAPPIER New Year

  5. Sandy MacMillan on December 23, 2020 at 8:27 am

    Thank you Carol! Such a powerful reminder!!

  6. Karen Wagner on December 23, 2020 at 9:42 am

    Merry Christmas Carol and Gene!
    I’ve learned that despite the chaos and fear of 2020, our Lord continued to show up and love like never before! Chains were broken, forgiveness has taken place, and God answered some prayers more clearly than ever before.

    His loving nature never changed this year , it’s our circumstances and our perspective that shifts …. so I’m clinging to His never changing character now and in 2021❤️

  7. Leslie James on December 23, 2020 at 9:56 am

    I have learned that God is relentless in His desire for me. He has a perfect plan for my life, one of hope and peace, and abundant blessing. I have learned that even in the most mundane aspects of my life, Gods promises and blessings are very present. I just have to have the eyes that are looking for Him. He is my All in All. He is my shepherd and my King, He is my best friend.

  8. Sarah Mallory on December 23, 2020 at 10:22 am

    I have learned of his faithfulness. We have been challenged with fear trying to adhere itself to our lives. BUT GOD has shown himself mighty. By providing healing, and grace in times of sadness. God has been calling out to all of the ones we love. I pray for all of us to be aware of his presence in our every day.

  9. Marilyn Stuart on December 23, 2020 at 10:25 am

    Greetings from Canada!
    Over this past year God has deepened my understanding of His sovereignty and providence. We see through a glass dimly but He sees from the beginning to the end. Governments come and governments go but it is God who sets people in place and disposes of them. His will will be accomplished in and through us and for His glory! What assurance and hope that brings to my soul….and I can rest in that! Praise His wonderful name! He is so worthy of our praise!
    Merry Christmas, Carol, Gene and Jason! What a testimony you are to the sustaining power of Jesus Christ. May God continue to strengthen you in these difficult days. It will be worth it all when we see Jesus!

  10. Leanne Gregory on December 23, 2020 at 2:04 pm

    Hi Carol, as I have messaged before I also have a son incarcerated so I totally understand the concern for their health. It is so very scary. I pray for your family, Thanks for all you do

  11. Susan G. on December 23, 2020 at 6:13 pm

    Thank you for this Carol.
    I have found through this trying year, that God is faithful! He never leaves us, His promises are true, and His Word is life-giving! I’m continuing to focus on His Word as we hopefully move into a better 2021! But no promises for that. 😉
    I’m praying for you and Gene and especially Jason, as well as your ministries!
    I first heard you speak in Klamath Falls, Oregon years ago and I’ve prayed for your family ever since…
    May God bless you abundantly in 2021!
    Merry Christmas!

  12. Jan Westendorp on December 23, 2020 at 9:56 pm

    God is faithful! He carries me…since my husband died September 28, Isaiah 43 brings so much comfort! And so many words from God are helping! I couldn’t do this without Him.

  13. Ann Dubas on December 24, 2020 at 12:16 pm

    Emotionally, this has been very challenging. My D-in-Law has 4 kids, 2 of which are 15 month old twin boys. Yet, she calls me everyday to make sure that I am ok. I have a wonderful husband. And I see the blessings of The Lord even when the Corona struggle is all around us. We are still waiting to hear our imprisoned son to say “Praise The Lord”.

  14. Susan Tindell on December 24, 2020 at 1:59 pm

    read the first chapter of your book “Between a Rock and a Grace Place.” it so (hugged) me, only way i can describe. i have been in that place with a huge boulder and always encountering smaller ones. and can forget the grace is only way to navigate. This chapter is probably for everyone in 2020.

  15. Shelly on December 24, 2020 at 3:53 pm

    Thank you for sharing, Gene and Carol. Your honesty and openness about your real struggle has always inspired and challenged me.

    The inspiration shines through your continued focus to honor our Great God–despite what the enemy tried to steal, kill and destroy.

    The challenge comes in allowing God free reign to use ALL of my story to share His story. Glory to God!

    Merry Christmas, sweet friends. I am thankful to have been allowed a few steps of my journey to crisscross a few of your own steps.

    Thanks for being a part of the joy in ministry during some early years of mine.

    Love you guys, and praying for you and your precious son who is NOT forgotten but a bright light of God’s Hope in a dark corner.


  16. Edie (Veenstra) Richardson on January 20, 2021 at 7:08 am

    Dearest Carol,
    I have just opened this Christmas message from you and to my delight you are talking about the Shepherds. I have been studying Shepherd references in my devotions and coupled with my experience of watching 3rd world shepherds while traveling I am thankful for your mini devotional here. Thank you. When you consider what the Shepherd analogy shows us…and what is still happening today with herders/keepers of sheep, it is truly comforting to know our Lord Jesus is our Shepherd. In fact, He is thee Shepherd — of our hearts, ofour minds, and of our lives.

    That said, please let us know if President Trump has pardoned/commuted Jason’s conviction?

    I am so lookingfor that good news.

    Love you. Edie (Veenstra) Richardson