No one really has much time to talk about Christmas Cards before Christmas. Many are chanting the Christmas Card Carol (actually a lamentation) in which the first verse deals with the hassle of writing a personal note, the second verse discusses addresses and whether to use return address labels, the final verse bitterly records the ever-increasing cost of the whole business – cards, stamps, pictures. The chorus chimes out the lack of time, time, time.
I had soured on Christmas Cards shortly after I was married, because my list was long, and up-to-date, and I was exceedingly selfish with my time and money. But a friend, and not a particularly good friend, and not a person that I perceived as a devout Christian, gently chastised me. In her opinion, of all the times of the year, Christmas was an important time to reach out to family and friends. “God bless us everyone,” et al.
It stuck with me, and even those years when I was really busy with smallish children, I would pull out the cards and the list, and send out the cards to the aunts and uncles, the cousins, the business associates, church connections and neighbors. I would try to include a brief note, and I would often run late for that very reason. Each of my etiquette books emphasized that unless one is a head of state, or sending a corporate greeting, one should do more than simply scrawl a signature. I stuck to that for a very long time until I noticed that no one else did.
Over the last few Christmases we’ve noticed fewer cards being delivered to the house.
We still delight to receive a card that always includes a long note from a dear friend from West Richmond Church of the Brethren who used to babysit my brother and me. A lovely woman I sat next to for years in choir sent me a gorgeous card with a very kind message. The Very Reverend whose parish is down the street and for whom I worked while transitioning from freelance to homeschool, faithfully sends a card. I have one or two relatives who always send a lovely note with their card.
But for the most part,
distance has defeated inclination toward family connection.
Technology has overcome the etiquette of a personal (written) note.
Hecticness has beaten out even the minimal annual outreach.
Too, the artwork on cards has become rather predictable, and safe. There are wintery scenes, word art, iconistic reindeer or wreaths or doves. The newest thing are the “Selfie” Christmas cards. Because Christmas Cards are all about, well, your family picture… just sayin’…perhaps if you had included a personal note…I know. I expect too much and rather than offer this dismal commentary, I should be grateful that I receive any cards at all!
Still, those few Christmas Cards with artwork even faintly reminiscent of the Biblical narrative that actually is the, dare I say it, reason for the season, are very placid, calm. Few have anything remotely to do with the stunning reality of God made Flesh in the midst of Roman-occupied Bethlehem overcrowded with Jews forced to comply with a government ordered tax census and ruled by a psychopath named Herod.
Phillip Yancy in The Jesus I Never Knew (and excerpted in devotional book Waiting for the Light) mentions that Christmas cards are deceptively serene for what was really happening at the time. What if, Mr. Yancey asks, the artwork did not consist of the serene art gallery Madonnas, exotic Kings and caravans, pastoral hillside shepherds or lovely glowing angels? What if they were more like the other nativity scene? You know, the heavenly nativity scene from Revelation 12. The scene where the Red Dragon swoops in to the devour the emerging Christ child while Mary (the church), vulnerable in delivery, cries out…
Let me know your favorite! Maybe next year I’ll have it printed up…:)