By some accounts, Christmas cards account for, well, a lot of money. That’s a less than honest way of saying I was too lazy to do the research because I’m already past deadline to get this column to Dave Miller. Anyway, it’s a lot. And so is postage. This is a topic that we need to talk about. I’m feeling particularly soap-boxy today, so let’s get right to it.
The first Christmas cards were sent by the ancient Babylonians…OK, again, not really, but look, I’ve got at least 400 more words to get to Dave, so bear with me, this may get better.
I do wonder about the origin of Christmas cards though. Obviously they came about sometime after Matthew, Chapter 1, but when? I mean, before Christmas cards, did the Early Church Fathers send each other Christmas parchments?
Dear Ignatius, Merry Christmas! Did you wait outside the marketplace again on Black Friday? Yours, Clement.
It would seem to me that the modern postal system was the catalyst for the Christmas card tradition we now have. Nowadays it’s easy to think of mail trucks and planes loaded down with pre-printed Christmas greetings, but it had to be hard in the early days. I wonder if they put ads in the back of the Farmer’s Almanac for seasonal horse help at the Pony Express.
WANTED: Seasonal Morgans and Mustangs for busy holiday routes.
• Must be able to work a flexible shift, including nights, weekends, and holidays
• Must be able to lift, pull, and push up to 400 lbs.
• Must be able to pass drug, background & credit checks
• Must be able to stand up for at least an 8 hour shift
• Repetitive standing, cantering, and galloping as necessary
• Sorry, Shetlands need not apply.
Every year’s Christmas card writing season brings with it several problems. The whole thing can be awkward. For starters, you just gotta do it. If nobody else guilts you into it, you guilt yourself into it, remembering that you promised last year you would send them this year. Well this year is here and every card you get in the mailbox is another guilt-causing reminder.
Then there’s the list itself. Let’s assume you’re one of the annual faithful Christmas card writer-sender-people. Who makes it onto the list? Who doesn’t? Who gets added this year? Who from last year gets cut? The Cut happens. It’s as infamous and unpleasant a Christmas tradition as fruitcake and burnt-bottom cookies. With The List there’s also an unspoken rule of reciprocity. It goes like this, “I sent a card to Millie and Clyde Higgenbottom for the last 175 years. They didn’t send me one last year, so I’m not sending them one this year.” Some folks are very protective of their List.
Sometimes the cut list is more like a standoff. Neither side wants to be the one to make the first move, so they keep sending cards even though they haven’t talked for years. The fact is, Christmas card lists are a lot like the NFL draft—some make the cut and some just don’t. Some were one year acquaintances. Some we just don’t keep in touch with. It’s natural. We all have had to think twice about whether to include or cut someone from The List. The funny thing is, we don’t think about how they had to decide whether or not to cut us. Facebook may have modernized it, but the Christmas Card List is the original ‘unfriending.’
So now that we have our list, what kind of card do we send? Secular or Religious? “Religious” as in Hallmark-version-of-religious or I-bought-these-cards-at-LifeWay-and-they-have-Max-Lucado-quotations-in-them-so-you-know-I’m-really-Christian “religious”? If we go with religious cards, do we pick the ones with Bible verses in them? If so, what translation? What will my pastor think if he gets a card from me with Luke 2:14 as quoted from the Living Bible?
What about the picture on the front of the card? If it is a non-religious card, a Santa or candy cane on the front tells the world that you are a soul-less idolater who doesn’t care about the real meaning of Christmas. If it is a nativity scene, how biblically accurate is it? Stable or cave? Wise men, no wise men? Observant cow, or no observant cow? Or will the observant cow just make people think of Chick-fil-A? (An automatic connection in Evangelical circles.) A lot goes into selecting just the right card.
And what about the non-Christians in your life? What card do you send them? Do you buy “safe” cards for them? Or do you go out of your way to make sure they get the same card so you can hit ‘em hard with the message during the season? Maybe step up your game this year and tuck a gospel tract in the envelope, or a John MacArthur Study Bible.
But what is the present purpose of these annual mail-outs? Christmas cards used to be an annual act of neighborly Christmas kindness. For many of us, now they fall into the niggling category of obligation, like the hassle of buying candy bars and cookies from coworkers’ kids. In this world of constantly being tied together by social media, aren’t we at a point where we can move to the more modern 140-character limit Christmas ‘tweet’?
Hello Everybody, wanted to do something new, hope u see this msg b4 it rolls off the screen. Amy & I want to wish u n urs all a blesd & Merr
Hmmm…I guess not. Maybe that’s not such a bad thing, after all.
Despite some of the quirkiness that is a part of sending out personalized Christmas cards, they are a blessing to receive, and worth all the care and effort to send. On that note, since I didn’t have your address…
To God be the glory this Christmas, in our home and yours.
Merry Christmas from the Russos!!
(You made the cut.)