Sunday, December 23, 2007

I See… The First Christmas

You probably think this is about the first Christmas, the one in Bethlehem a little over 2,000 years ago. The one where Joseph and great-with-child Mary wander all over the city without finding decent lodgings, so they are relegated to the relatively last-class surroundings of a stable. It must have been rough for them, knowing what they knew about their divine mission to birth and raise the Savior of the world, to struggle even in their attempts to find a suitable station to bring him into the world. Despite these humbling circumstances, I’m sure they were comforted by the appearance of a new star, visiting shepherds and wisemen, and their own testimonies.

I imagine that a perfectly loving Heavenly Father may have found it difficult, but necessary, to dedicate his only begotten son down to a world where many would ignore, abuse, and eventually crucify him.

But this is not about that first Christmas. This is about our first Christmas; yours and mine. Everyone who celebrates Christmas will be celebrating it for the first time in some way. Maybe it is the first time with a husband or wife, or the first without one; the first with or without children; in a new house or without a home; or something as seemingly trivial as a first with a real or fake tree. We’re enjoying our first Christmas with a pre-lit tree, and it’s given me about four more hours to spend on other worthwhile traditions. First Christmases can present an array of challenges, all of which can be mitigated by the right doses of humility and reliance on the holiday’s true meaning.

However, this is not the first Christmas I’m talking about.

This is our first Christmas in 19 years without Brian. 19 years of morning joy watching him open desired presents, ranging from a He-man action figure to Season 2 of The Office. The knowledge that he is currently wholly consumed in serving others on a mission in North Carolina, something we have encouraged him to do even before he was able to know we wanted it for him, and the blessings we reap through his service, tend to take a little of the edge off of how terribly we miss him. We knew that angry dogs would chase him, angry residents would slam doors in his face, and misinformed investigators would reject his message, but we let him go anyway.

Wait a minute… hmm… while an eternity of knowledge and experience sets me apart from God.... I am just an imperfectly loving father, sending his son away from home for a length of time, into a cruel, harsh world… on a mission to share the gospel with those willing to hear… could this be faintly connected to the First Christmas in Bethlehem after all?

What do you think?

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