Friday, December 16, 2016

The sad death of Christmas Cards

Here we are in an old Christmas card photo

Has the giving of Christmas cards died a quick and sad death?

I awoke with the song “White Christmas” playing in my head the other morning. One line kept repeating over and over, “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas, with every Christmas card I write.” As this line kept looping I thought about how far from reality this seems. I admit that my wife and I no longer send Christmas cards and the majority of our friends don’t either.

I’ve also had a question rattling around in my thoughts, “How can I find ways to fully live the hope and expectation of the season of Advent, rather than stress and ‘Christmas’ for 30 days prior to the actual Christmas day.

These two random thoughts collided and I was left with a bigger question, “In previous generations, were writing and addressing Christmas cards one of the spiritual acts of Advent?”

As I understand it, Advent is a season of preparation, of spiritual and moral self-reflection in anticipation of entering the Christmas event. Christmas day is the culmination of that self-reflection capped off by the 12 days of Christmas. It seems to me this has completely flip-flopped. Christmas begins at the end of October and the entire season is a race up to the finish line- Chrismas day. I wonder if in the past taking the time to write and address a stack of cards helped slow down the pace and provide an opportunity to reflect on the season, rather than race through it.

Growing up, I remember receiving cards from family and friends and as a child I remember especially loving the ones that came with a photo of the senders family. Most of the time I knew the people in the image and sometimes I’d ask my parents who the people were. Other times the cards would have beautiful scenes and encouraging words on them. If we were lucky, they even had a check or a dollar or two for us kids.

Fast forward a bit to when my children were small, Christmas cards still were sent and received. As a family we added a “twist,” we place all the cards we got in a basket on the dining table and would  pray for the family from one card each night.

Nowadays, we only receive a handful of cards each year. More and more of my friends post a Christmas photo on their Facebook page and wish their followers Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. Facebook has killed Christmas cards. Time to write an obituary I suppose.

Thinking about how Facebook has replaced Christmas cards gave me an idea of a spiritual practice to recapture the slowness and mindfulness of addressing numerous cards. I decided to go through my Facebook “friends” list  and pray a prayer of blessing over each one. I sat last Saturday morning with this list and if you’re one of my friends I prayed for you.

Here’s what I prayed:
Numbers 6:24-26
24 The Lord bless you
   and keep you;
25 the Lord make his face shine on you
   and be gracious to you;
26 the Lord turn his face toward you
   and give you peace.

May you experience peace and blessing this Christmas season. And if you’re not sending cards, I invite you to the practice of passing on the prayer and blessing to your Facebook, and wider, friends.

Here’s the version of “White Christmas” I had playing in my head that day. I had this album on cassette back in the 90’s and wore it out playing it in the minivan with my kids.

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