george hancock stefanDue to the wisdom, patience, and tradition-keeping of my wife, we send Christmas cards and letters each year. We take various family pictures at events and one of those pictures is selected to become the family Christmas picture. My wife writes the introductory letter and then each one of us who is still living at home writes a small section - we have decided not to go over one page front and back and not to go smaller than a size twelve font. Then my wife cheerfully writes the addresses of all those who will receive our Christmas letter by hand. 

The decoration of our Christmas tree takes place the day after Thanksgiving, when all of our children and grandchildren are home. We have so many decorations that we have to leave some of them off. Some make the tree every year, such as the ornaments celebrating the first Christmas of our children and grandchildren. The angel on the top of the tree is put on by the youngest grandchild or by the exchange student who happens to be living with us that year. 

Then we wait to see which Christmas cards will arrive on which day! For 20 years, one of our friends from Michigan always took first place. Her Christmas card arrived during the first week after Thanksgiving. This year, to our surprise, one card arrived a day earlier than her Christmas card. We rejoice in hanging up this first card (and the ones that come after) in our kitchen because it announces the beginning of the Christmas greetings. 

The other game is to find out who concludes the Christmas season with their card. The prize thus far belongs to one of my pastoral colleagues who one year combined her Christmas letter with her Easter letter and it arrived sometime in April. 

We faithfully read the cards and letters and then some years, we keep them and use them for our evening prayers. This way, we appreciate them twice – the first time when we receive them at Christmas and then again when we pray for our loved ones who sent us cards and letters. 

Our Christmas cards and letters are read from multiple angles. All of them are informative about individuals and families. There are moments of joy – new children, engagements and weddings, promotions and retirements, acquisitions of pets and changes of addresses.  Then there are the moments of sadness when we hear that some of our loved ones went to be with the Lord.  We grieve with the family but we also rejoice. Because Christ came into this world, we know that when lives are finished here we go to be in the glory of Jesus Christ. 

The other angle from which we read these letters or primarily the cards is the biblical or technological angle. I am always looking for new ways to declare the Christmas story.  This year the prize went to a newly married, pastoral couple who on their Christmas picture card had this inscription, “Jesus is the gift that perfectly fits the size of every heart. May you be blessed by His love this Christmas and throughout the New Year.” 

That is my blessing and prayer for each one of you.