Christmas Cards: the season, the reason

given on Sunday, November 29, 2009

 

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Thanksgiving break is over and the workweek is ahead.  We have had family, turkey dinners, football, lazy afternoon naps, shopping and the shift to a new season—Christmas.  Just a few days, but we do so much.  One goal may be to get those Christmas cards and letters started if not done.  At least I always think that it should be done before I get into the last few weeks of the school’s semester and all the rushing around to get things done for Christmas; unfortunately, I typically do not get the cards done.

Still Christmas cards are on my to do list and it triggered me into thinking a bit more seriously about the cards themselves.  For instance, did you ever think about God’s Christmas card?  Look back at the Old Testament verses in Isaiah and Jeremiah.  These prophetic words were spoken hundreds of years before Jesus was even born; yet the prophets were sending out the first messages that Christ was coming:

Isaiah 40:3 3 The voice of one crying in the wilderness:

“ Prepare the way of the LORD;

Make straight in the desert

A highway for our God.  (NKJV)

Jeremiah 33:14-16 14 ‘Behold, the days are coming,’ says the LORD,

‘that I will perform that good thing which I have promised to the house of Israel and to the house of Judah:

15 ‘ In those days and at that time

I will cause to grow up to David

A Branch of righteousness;

He shall execute judgment and righteousness in the earth.

16 In those days Judah will be saved,

And Jerusalem will dwell safely.

And this is the name by which he will be called:

THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.  (NKJV)

Obviously the prophets were trying to prepare the Israelites that Christ would be coming, but so many did not hear the message.

I know that when I hear someone say that something is going to happen like an earthquake here in Missouri any day, I have a tendency to dismiss it and not think about the reality of it.  The fact that the message sent by the prophets to the people living around the Jordan River and even the east coastline of the Mediterranean Sea hundreds of years before Christ was born must not have taken the message very seriously either.

Today, over 2,000 years after Christ was really born, we are still living in a society that skeptics still disregard the significance of the prophets’ messages.  As practicing Christians who show up at church each week to worship, the significance of the prophets’ messages seems as important today as it did last year, five years ago, 25 years ago, even 75 years ago.  We grew up in homes where the season was the reason for our lives.  We grew up knowing that the season is the reason we celebrate Christ’s birth even 2,000 years later.  We certainly do not celebrate our own birthdays to the same extent because we are simply Christians who believe, not Christ who changed the world by one simple rule:  Love one another.

We select Christmas cards that share the sentiments we feel during this season.  We send the cards to those of our family and friends who share our feelings about the season.  We renew relationships, we continue relationships, and we find relationships in the messages on the cards and the histories included in the notes and letters we receive.  Christmas cards become treasured little historical records for us.  The question, though, is does the reason for the season reflect in the cards?  The question we need to ask is do our Christmas cards share our sentiment about the significance of Christmas?  If we were to send the Christmas cards to those who do not know about Christ, would they be read and heard or read and ignored?

I have to admit that I went back to the Christmas cards that I bought and looked at them more carefully.  My tendency is to select a variety of cards to send to different friends and family members that reflect how I know them or how they know me.  The images on the cards are the eye catchers, but the sentiments must also share a significant image to the reader.  As I looked back over the cards I have picked, I started realizing how many really do not directly mention the reason for the season.  Listen to some of them:

  • May the warmth of friendship and the wonders of the season add special joy to your holidays.
  • Wishing you warm winter moments…bright Christmas memories.
  • May Christmas surround you with beauty, touch you with warmth, and fill you with joy.
  • May this Christmas season bring you special moments and happy memories.

The words may mention Christmas and allude to the reason, but they certainly do not spell it out in clear, concrete ideas.  I may be guilty of not sharing the true meaning of Christmas by just sending out the platitudes, the soft-sell words on my Christmas cards.

True, Christmas is a season in which family and friends reconnect.  We give gifts, we gather for meals, we may even drops some coins in the Salvation Army kettles, but how often do we do these things with Christ in the center of it.  Do we say the words that reconnect us to the reason for the season?

As we go through the advent season, I hope we do see Christ in the center of all the special events, the meals, and even the gift giving.  Are we honestly sharing Christ or have we lost Christ?

The Christmas cards I send are typically sent to those who know Christ in their lives.  The significance of one word—Christmas—probably is not lost on most of the receivers.  Looking at those same sentiments knowing that the addressees on the card do know Christ can certainly change the emphasis in the words.  Look at these same words with Christ’s message as the central idea:

  • May the warmth of friendship and the wonders of the season add special joy to your holidays.
  • Wishing you warm winter moments…bright Christmas memories.
  • May Christmas surround you with beauty, touch you with warmth, and fill you with joy.
  • May this Christmas season bring you special moments and happy memories.

The difference in reading is subtle, but I believe the difference is tremendous.  Christmas is Christ’s birthday.  It is a means to keep the focus on the reason for the season.  We should never let Christ out of Christmas.  The cards and letters we send this season need to keep the reason in them.  There are too many other messages bombarding our families, our friends, and us that are outnumbering the message of Christ.

This year, read the Christmas cards with Christ in the center.  When you write your notes and letters, add a line or two about how Christ is the center of your life.  Think about sending a card to someone who may not know Christ because we have a message to share which is so spectacular that we want everybody to have the gift of Christ in their own lives.

Then, as the year changes and we move past Christmas and into 2010, let’s make the season year round.  Let’s look for the little ways we can send Christ messages out year round.  For instance, many of the emails I get now have a sentiment or a web connection that is part of the signature in each mailing.  I use the phrase: Love God, love life, love one another. Maybe there is a little extra I could add like a favorite verse or at least the identifying book, chapter and verse such as Philippians 4:13 which has been on the bulletins all year.

When you send a note to someone, maybe add you favorite verse under your name.  Maybe you can find some cards or stationary that reflects your faith.  I am not sure of all the ways you might keep the reason for the season in your communications year round.

As a church, maybe we can identify other means of sharing the reason for the season year round.  I know we have been thinking about new signs, maybe the signs are inspirational as well as connectional.  We live in a world so full of words and images; we just need to see how to use them to keep Christ in focus.  Our actions definitely speak volumes, but so do our signs, our buildings, our prayers, and our outreach in and outside of the church itself.  The church that keeps Christ as the reason for the season keeps Christ in the center year round.  As you send out those Christmas cards this month, let your mind explore new ideas to keep Christ the reason for our season of faith.

Dear God, the father,

Thank you for the gift of your son.  We look forward to the celebration of his birth, but we also want others to feel the excitement and the love we feel by having you in the center of our lives.  We know that the season is brief, but the reason lasts year round.  Help us find ways to give the gift of God to those who still have not received your grace in their lives.  –Amen

The New Testament reason for the season…

Luke 1:12-20

12Unannounced, an angel of God appeared just to the right of the altar of incense. Zachariah was paralyzed in fear.

13-15But the angel reassured him, “Don’t fear, Zachariah. Your prayer has been heard. Elizabeth, your wife, will bear a son by you. You are to name him John. You’re going to leap like a gazelle for joy, and not only you—many will delight in his birth. He’ll achieve great stature with God.

15-17“He’ll drink neither wine nor beer. He’ll be filled with the Holy Spirit from the moment he leaves his mother’s womb. He will turn many sons and daughters of Israel back to their God. He will herald God’s arrival in the style and strength of Elijah, soften the hearts of parents to children, and kindle devout understanding among hardened skeptics—he’ll get the people ready for God.”

18Zachariah said to the angel, “Do you expect me to believe this? I’m an old man and my wife is an old woman.”

19-20 But the angel said, “I am Gabriel, the sentinel of God, sent especially to bring you this glad news. But because you won’t believe me, you’ll be unable to say a word until the day of your son’s birth. Every word I’ve spoken to you will come true on time—God’s time.”  (The Message)

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