Bah Humbug.  Thanks, but no thanks.

Have you ever been ambushed by a gift?  Did the Gifter insist, even though you swore up and down you didn’t need it?  Did they end up being right?  Yeah, me too.


December 2005.  Christmas was approaching.  At the time, my husband and I were directing a college ministry.   ‘Twas the season of broomball events, gift exchanges and care packages for the students.

And, we were still reeling from our first year of autism.

Honestly, the last thing I felt like doing was spending my nights listening to a college freshman bemoan her (lack of) boyfriend problems, or the overwhelming stress of an undergraduate courseload.

Why, yes.  Life is unfair.

Meanwhile, my newly diagnosed child was home with a babysitter, stimming to a Veggie Tales video on endless loop.  I could already hear the therapist’s voice in my head, “You didn’t do his speech homework again?  What did you do last night?”

Um, I played broomball at midnight with a bunch of nineteen year olds.

Tapped out and broke (oh, how we hemorrhaged therapy money those years!) we decided to forfeit the tree and gifts that Christmas.  We had nothing left to give, and precious little to celebrate.

Bah humbug.


Ambushed:  A Collegiate Compassion Coup

One Saturday morning, I stepped out to run some errands.  Eddie stayed at home to take a rare nap.  When I returned, I was stunned to discover a fully decorated tree installed in our living room.  Lights blinked.  I blinked back.  What on earth happened here?


Several of our campus staff interns leaped out and screamed. Evidently, they broke into our house to smuggle in some sorely needed Christmas cheer.  Irrespective of our wishes, they completely disregarded our directives to keep our home austere and festooned with dreariness for the season.  Our campus elves pulled a Compassion Coup.

“It’s for Jeremy, not you,” they justified, as they merrily busied themselves with the finishing touches.   Jeremy squealed and ran amok about the living room, touching anything that glittered.

I couldn’t help but break into a smile at their smug expressions.  And leaked not a few tears.  Eddie came out at hearing all the commotion.  Disoriented from sleep, he became even more so once he saw the tree.   But he quickly came to.

We’d been ambushed by a Christmas tree.  We were bum-rushed by grace.

2005, Jeremy in front of the contraband Christmas Tree

2005 Jeremy (age 3) and the contraband tree. Photo courtesy of Bryan Ly.


The Present of His Presence

When we could not attain joy, joy came to us.  When we least had our act together, Someone already knew.  And despite our insistence that we didn’t need it, grace knew better.  Sovereign grace looked beyond our valiant attempts to sparkle, and saw how broken and busted we were inside.

We were no better than a Christmas tree we didn’t have:  severed from the source of life, hiding behind whatever accoutrements and ornamentation we could scrounge, but slowly decaying and shriveling up.

So He pulled a Compassion Coup.  He dismissed our feeble protestations.  He knew that, sometimes, we don’t even know what we truly need.  We have a tendency to reject the very help and hope that can save us.

Grace descended from heaven, became flesh, and made His dwelling among us.  Despite the machinations of man to eliminate Him, He smuggled into our world to overwhelm us with blessing and favor.  Heaven drew near.  Salvation came to the earth.

He came to gift us with the ultimate present of His presence:  Emmanuel, God with us.

Although we often fail to recognize the gift of God;  Although the world still conspires to crowd Him out; and although His presence may come uninvited, unappreciated or even unwelcome, His love presses on, undeterred.

The Creator knows the needs of His Created, even when we don’t.

He knows we still need Him.

Joy to the world, the Lord has come.  Let earth receive her King!


Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

~ James 1:17


What about you?

  1. How have you been ambushed by grace?  
  2. What’s the most meaningful gift, surprise, or “Compassion Coup” you’ve ever received? 
  3. Do you know someone going through a difficult season?  How might you ambush them with a Compassion Coup? (Special thanks to reader Cat H. for the great suggestion/comment on the Facebook page!)


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