Sometimes Christmas is a Christmas of firsts. Our first Christmas together, [my now-ex-wife] got up early and came back to announce that she was pregnant with our first child Timothy. She did this having not yet learned that I run on 7 cylinders until about 10am (despite her insistence that I once threw a pillow at her for tryin to wake me, a charge I still deny but one to which I must plead no contest since, IF I did it, I certainly wouldn’t remember doing it).
1998 brought us a Christmas of lasts. My dad died just after midnight on 29 December. Sometimes, Christmas is both. 2007 found our family celebrating our first Christmas in Oregon. We didn’t know it at the time, but it would also be my mom’s last. She died 15 December 2008, two weeks short of ten years after my dad.
2007 would also be a last for another reason we didn’t know at the time: our last as a family together, as [my now-ex-wife] and I separated in September 2008. Thus was 2008 to be forever known as our first Christmas living apart, although thankfully and with much praise to God (and a break in the worst snowstorm in the Pacific Northwest in 40 years), we were able to spend Christmas Eve and day in the same place, and renew a Christmas Eve tradition that we have not missed in 16 years: a reading of the Christmas Story from the Book of Luke, and the opening of any one present of the children’s choosing, before eggnog and bedtime.
Now we arrive at Christmas 2009, which will also be a Christmas of firsts and a Christmas of lasts. For the first time in 16 years, we’ll read the Christmas Story via speakerphone, an equitable compromise that gives [my now-ex-wife] Christmas Eve and early morning with the kids, while I have Christmas Day and the day after with them. She’ll be taking them to a friend’s church for Christmas Eve services, while I arrive on the late train and set up a Christmas morning surprise for my middle child.
Christmas 2009 will be a last for [my now-ex-wife] and I as our 17 year marriage will end sometime in January. It will also usher in many firsts as we continue to work together to do what’s best for the kids. Although there’s ample reason to be sad, I am thankful that she and I are working together well (for which I hereby publicly thank her) to arrange my visits with the kids as often as vacation time and finances will allow. I’m back to taking the train most trips, as my truck still needs a $550 wheel bearing :^/ but hopefully we can soon resume meeting halfway and letting the kids stay here in Salem. Now that gas has gone back up, it’s a little more expensive than the train, but the kids like seeing their Salem friends when time allows and it makes for a bit more of a break for the routine for them. Like an adventure, which it certainly is cramming into my 1br apt with 3 kids, me, a dog, and a cat that has decided she LIKES having the place all to herself!
But with all the firsts and all the lasts, happy ones and sad ones, we can all still celebrate this Christmas because the REASON we celebrate has not, and will not, change: We celebrate because, a long, long time ago, in a little backwater town in Judea, in a little backwater stable behind a backwater inn, something happened that would reach everywhere and everyone, even you, if you find yourself in your own little backwater situation this Christmas, even in the Cave of Adullam:
And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.