I have had what I must consider one of the finest Christmases I've ever had.
Yes, I had to work Christmas eve. Yes, I had to work Christmas day. But it's all good when the story is finally told. Lemme grab a beer and sit down a spell and tell ya about it.
See, my church, First Baptist Church of Fair Oaks, most always has a special Christmas Eve service. It's usually filled with carols, and bells, and candles, and all kinds of special Christmas music and Christmas eve type stuff. It's a beautiful service. But this year, things are different.
What with Christmas day being on a Sunday this year, church leaders were cognizant of the fact that they would be competing with family events and presents and dinners and... well, face it, they're competing with CHRISTMAS DAY on Sunday morning. The church decided to do things a little different, and have two, identical weekend services, one Saturday night on Christmas Eve, and the other Sunday morning for those that still wanted to attend church like a regular Sunday. That way the faithful could all attend the service of their choice, and not miss out on the special Christmas service.
So, about a week ago the music director at my church sends me an e-mail, asking if I would be available to sing for the Christmas Eve and Christmas Day church service.
Are you kidding? I thought, I'd love to sing!
Well, being as that I'm working on Sunday mornings, I told her I'd be happy to be a part of Saturday night's service, but I would have to work Christmas morning. She replied she'd love me to do Saturday night. So, she got me a copy of the song she wanted me to sing, and I set to work this past week learning "What A Strange Way To Save The World", by 4Him, I think.
After a very hectic week of work, helping my parents prepare their home for being tented and treated for termites, Christmas shopping and gift wrapping, Saturday night - Christmas eve - finally came. I picked up my girls at their mom's house (bless them for coming with me!) and we went to church. Normally I like to show up a few minutes early and go through a sound check for the music, but Saturday I was a little late for that, so I told the sound guy that I trusted him, and let's just do it when it's time! (He's done the sound for me enough times to know how I sing, and I was certain he'd adjust things just fine.)
I was so nervous at the start of the service, but as things got going and the carols rang out, and I felt God's presence among so many people, I became less and less nervous. When the time came to sing, after the reading of the Christmas story from Matthew, I'd given all the nerves to God. I find that, when I place my heart in the right attitude, and go up and sing for the purpose of ministry, God has ALWAYS been faithful. I haven't forgotten the words to a song in I don't know how long, and it's not my preparedness or my skill or my desire that makes me remember: I'm convinced God works things out for His will.
Well, the song went off without a hitch. The entire service was a blast, and I so enjoyed singing. My kids enjoy hearing me sing, and my kids telling me they liked it is just about the ultimate compliment for me.
After the service I took the kids home to their mom's house where we all (me, their mom, her boyfriend, my girls and their new baby brother) had a nice Christmas eve dinner.
Today, I woke up early. I had intentions to wake up early, but did so quite by accident. See, I set my alarm with the desire to awake at 4am, so I could get to work early. Too bad I set my alarm for 4pm. Dang glad the cat started scratching in the litter box at 4:03am and woke me up!
Gooooood kitty, kitty.
I got to work at hour early, at 5am, and let one of my co-workers from the graveyard shift go home early. About 10 minutes after I showed up, another of my dayshift coworkers, to whom I'd been talking the day before, also showed up, and she let another graveyard staffer leave. Merry Christmas to my co-workers.
The day was nice and slow with no major problems, save a fatal vehicle accident. What a day to lose a family member, huh?
Anyway, I got my kid's mom's house about 5pm with my gifts for the kids and everyone. I walked in the house and was just blown away! Seems my oldest daughter, Emily, had gone darn near hog-wild with Christmas gift-buying, and there were gifts EVERYWHERE! Half the living room was covered with wrapped presents, and a good half of them were from Emily! She bought her sister a 27" TV and TV stand! She bought me NICE new speakers for my computer! She got her little sister an IPOD shuffle! I'm telling ya, the girl just went gift-buying crazy!! I was just amazed at her generosity. She played Santa and just giggled and grinned as she handed out gift after gift to everyone.
After the gift unwrapping orgy, we settled in for ANOTHER nice dinner, of fresh pot roast, and left overs from the previous night's ham, potatoes, stuffing, etc... then the kids all retreated to unbox, cut open, put together, and otherwise try to utilize the new gifts.
All in all, I'm just dazzled, thrilled, proud, humbled, and joyous at the blessings I've had today. The material blessings are great, and I'd be lying if I said they meant nothing to me. I'm not that pious. But, I'm even more humbled by the family blessings, and the emotional blessings, and the spiritual blessings that have come out of this Christmas.
To see my shattered family, torn up by separation and the strife that comes with it, forge from that an unconventional family unit that gets along and works with each other, and even likes each other, and strives to make things the best they can for the children in that unconventional family unit, is a blessing I will cherish forever.
Yeah... I think this unconventional Christmas has been one of my best Christmases ever.