We shall soon be taking down out Christmas cards. I send a lot of Christmas cards, and we receive a lot too. We noticed this year that most of the cards we received and just about all the cards we sent had an explicitly Biblical reference. Visiting other homes during the season and seeing other peoples’ cards we became aware that our experience is untypical: the majority of Christmas cards make no reference to the Biblical story. Some of our cards contained circular letters, and some friends sent circular letters by email explaining that they were not sending cards this Christmas but were giving a donation to charity instead. I confess that I only skim read circular letters. I also confess that I shall feel sad to be taking our Christmas cards down, our home will seem empty without them.
I remember being very moved by all the cards wishing me well that I received around the time of my cancer operation and as I was beginning my course of chemotherapy, getting on for two years ago. They were, for me, powerful symbols of the web of love and prayer with which I was being held. There were eventually too many for them all to be displayed at once, so like a large art gallery I began to rotate them, with some of display and others temporarily in store. Together they incarnated the love of God which was holding me through a difficult time.
I recently read somewhere that a friendship between two people who have a shared faith and who take prayer seriously is much stronger and deeper than one between two people who don’t, and I sense that there is truth in that.
Christmas cards that remind us of the Christmas story are very important. The sending of them is a reminder of a shared faith which deepens the friendship between sender and receiver, it anchors that friendship within the loving activity of a Love greater than ours, and it celebrates and witnesses to that loving activity. I know that they are not cheap to buy and that posting them in any number is a costly business, but faith is sometimes a costly business, and the sharing of it with friends to our mutual benefit, and the witnessing of it to others, is always likely to come at some cost. I don’t see it as an alternative to charitable giving at Christmas. Its not an ‘either or’ but a ‘both and’. If we seriously want to keep Christmas as Christ’s birthday, and to avoid it becoming overwhelmingly secularised, then the sending of Christmas cards produced by a charity of our choice, that tell the Christmas story, with a ‘religious’ stamp on the envelope, is vitally important.