Join to Rebecca in the YouVersion Bible app, Unexpected: Five Women in the Lineage of Jesus 
December 17, 2023


6 min read

Well, he’s finally gone and done it, and things will never be the same.

My verbally challenged, autistic son—now eleven—has started shouting “No!” at us.

On the one hand, this is an amazing gift to place beneath the Christmas tree as we celebrate the birth of another exceptional boy. Screaming “No!” is a far more appropriate way to protest than flailing arms around, throwing things, or spitting (past choices). But on the other, it is a loud, persistent reaction that requires attention, which is its purpose, I suppose. As a parent, I am obligated to face my child head-on and deal with his objections one way or another. Sometimes we can meet in the middle through compromise. Sometimes I really have to stick to my guns and insist on compliance. Sometimes, when I’m just too exhausted or overwhelmed, I have to walk away and return to the matter in a bit, if it doesn’t resolve on its own.

Whatever transpires, I must acknowledge that someone whom I dearly love, whom I have spent a decade trying to vocally empower, needs help from me. He doesn’t get to take a day off from autism, and neither do his dad and I.

Hearing that “No!” has whet my appetite for yet another volley over the net. I would like the exchange to continue, to be able to ask, “Why not?” But as much as he has progressed over the last few years, I know he is not yet able to further clarify his position. In his mind, he’s done his part. It’s up to everybody else to figure out (and provide) what he wants. Whether his desire is wise, good, or even feasible is irrelevant. He, like many autistic children, does not walk in other people’s shoes or share concerns from their point of view. Rather, he is caught up in an internal riptide that we are resisting, through education, therapy, good parenting, and prayer.


Needless to say, the process is relentless and so every small step in the right direction merits acknowledgment. Then we must interpret if that remote point of light in the sky is worth following, perhaps into a strange new country that we’ve never seen before. We must consider laying our gifts at the feet of our boy, be they facility with language, good humor, perseverance, or a basic knowledge of how the world works. Gifts like these will last our child a long time, hopefully seeing him through to his next stage of life (which is adolescence—yikes!). Even as we turn over our time and talents, sensing the rightness of our actions, we know there is no going back the same way we came. Things are no longer what they first appeared to be. Like foreign wanderers far from home, we try to cope with the fact that our path is constantly shifting. Each of us in the family will land in a new place that requires constant readjustment of our expectations and efforts.

The question then emerges: how to we hang onto one another as a cohesive unit, survive in a sea of change?

That’s where the little gifts come in, the tokens sent from heaven that remind us that we are accompanied and guided every step of the way—if we choose to be. The other king, the Eternal One, knows exactly how hard we struggle to stay on the right road, both for the sake of others and ourselves. Having suffered every hardship known to humans—literally—he does not need to be informed of our difficulties so much as invited into them. I wonder how different my life would feel if I stopped in my tracks throughout the day and said, “Please help me with this problem/choice/circumstance/emotion/weariness. I can’t handle it on my own.”

Could I open the door a crack to let some light in? I have learned, much to my surprise, that sometimes the greater my struggle, the more meaningful the minute gifts laid at my feet become.

You’d think that times of oppression require huge fanfare from God. I wonder if He holds back because of our fragile state, not wanting us to shatter in the whirlwind.

The other day I was repairing my son’s cheaply made bookcase, which was warped and missing a shelf peg. Shockingly, I stopped and prayed for help rather than push through on my own as I usually do. Almost immediately I saw in my mind a picture of a wardrobe where we keep all manner of things. It was there that I found the one, single peg that helped me finish the job.

And that’s not all.  As we were putting up our artificial Christmas tree some days ago, I noticed that one of the pre-lit bulbs was out. “I wonder if we have a spare somewhere,” I said to my husband, feeling in no mood to go hunting for one. That very night, as I climbed into bed, I stretched out my legs under the covers and felt something tiny and hard between my toes. Uncovering my foot to ascertain what it was, I was stunned to see a single Christmas tree bulb. How it got there I had no earthly idea, but I knew it wasn’t a random occurrence. A king had been listening to my comment, which wasn’t even a full-fledged request. He had literally placed a gift at my feet, one that would scoot straight into my heart before I had time to put forth a “No!” for any reason (my fractured self produces many).

I confess, I’m tired this holiday season. Like Mary and Joseph being slammed with struggle at every turn on their journey to Bethlehem, I wonder why it has to be so hard. Sometimes the little gifts that are planted throughout my days reach their target, and I am encouraged. Sometimes I plod along like the donkey Mary was supposedly riding, part of the picture but not engaged with its meanings. I want so badly to absorb the blessings that have my name on them, but even that I cannot accomplish on my own. I have to ask that God help me receive them and not miss out because of blindness, indifference, or just plain brokenness.

How about you?

What do you need and want?

What small thing lies at the tips of your fingers—or toes? What about it made you take notice? Can you afford a few moments of stillness to find out?

Perhaps what you require right now is someone to bless with a gift of your own. A card, a text, a chore taken from their shoulders, some resource that you have that they lack. To collaborate with God in this way may be just the thing to lift your spirits from a dark place, because you get to know yourself, even if only temporarily, as an agent of divine light and love.

Maybe that’s why the Savior started out life on this planet as a baby. God knew we’d best receive him in a diminutive form. Nothing to argue over or critique, just a round cheek and button nose poking out from swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

This Christmas I want to focus on reaching out my hands in highly conscious way. I want to sweep the little blessings hidden throughout each day as if I were casting a fishnet over teeming waters. I want to examine my catch for messages of joy, hope, and strength. And I want to share whatever I find with others who are hungry for a reason to keep pressing forward, even when life keeps handing them a bunch of “No’s!” I want us all to interpret those negative signals as signs of potential growth rather than just a slap in the face, or one more thing to deal with. And in some small way, I hope to spot a place to lay my gifts, however meager, at the feet of the One who gave his all for me.

The Bible doesn’t lack for suggestions as to how to do this. Listen to this parable spoken by Jesus on this very topic, that explains the phrase, “the least of these”:

“Then the King will say to those on his right [i.e., the faithful], ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’

“Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!”

(Matt. 25:34–40 NLT, insertion mine)

Lord, our prayer this day is simple

Whether we are tired

Or full of strength

Let it all come together

The giving and receiving

So that we see Your

Newborn face

And remember to reach out

To You and

One another.