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placeholder December 12, 2016   •   VOL. 54, NO. 21   •   Oakland, CA
Letters from Readers


Theology of Christmas cards

Is there a theology for writing Christmas cards? I think there is.

Now, before I make all kinds of enemies, let me begin a short reflection by distinguishing the art of letter writing and Christmas cards from other forms of communication.

It is said that the US Postal Service has been in trouble over the last few years because of the dramatic drop in Christmas card mailings. It is suggested that email, text messages, instagrams, and other forms of social media are replacing the old familiar Christmas card. Some even suggest that Christmas cards are too costly and the work much more time consuming when a good email can be sent out to hundreds of people in a flash.

And if writing to someone is simply meant to communicate information, then I can see the logic in this efficient way of thinking. However, let me stand on principle and insist that the Christmas card was never meant to be a quick flash of information.

Rev. John Roche, SDB

So is there a theology to writing a Christmas card? I know there is because a Christmas card is linked to the great mystery of God's self-communication. The Incarnation was not God's text message, nor an email, nor a phone or voicemail message. The Word was made flesh, NOT digital.

So what makes writing a Christmas card so special and what is its theology? Writing a Christmas card IS time consuming. It IS even tedious and requires some thought. Writing Christmas cards can be costly as each year the first class stamp inches its way up nearly to half a dollar.

But this is exactly the point. A Christmas card screams out loud and clear that the person receiving the card IS worth my time, my thought, and the small amount of money necessary to give the receiver a sincere message of hope. It is not a message of information but a sharing and an inviting into transformation.

Now, I will admit, such a chore can become just that—a chore. And in our busy lives, who needs another stress factor. Yet, if we begin to prepare for the task in a loving and thoughtful manner, we can have our envelopes addressed before Thanksgiving and then steal moments in the next month to slowly and thoughtfully, even prayerfully send a heart felt message to the many people we want to connect with at this time of year.

The theology is simple. We imitate the act of love that Christmas celebrates. If God loves us so much to become one of us and to draw us into his family, what a beautiful gesture it is to remind a very secular and commercial season that there is more to life then parties and gifts. In fact, a simple promise of prayers in a card or a word of encouragement for a suffering relative or friend is far more meaningful than a gift certificate to one's favorite restaurant.

It is not too late. Take a few cards, pull some addresses together, put on some gentle Christmas music, make a cup of hot chocolate and then light a candle. Sit down, and with every card you write, don't dream of a white Christmas — instead, pray for the person to whom you are addressing.

Ask the Prince of Peace to bring that soul peace and joy. Ask the Alpha and the Omega to become the beginning and end of that person's life. Gently ask the Angels to clear away the sadness and the cobwebs that gather in so many of our lives that block out the choirs of angels and the Herald's voice from proclaiming the Good News that a Savior is born for us and He will never leave our side.

Merry Christmas! Join the choirs of Christmas card writers and turn that computer off.

(Father John Roche, SDB, is director of the Institute of Salesian Studies at Don Bosco Hall, an affiliate of the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology, Berkeley.)


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