By Melinda Mattson
I love getting Christmas cards and letters. I love to see pictures of my friends’ growing families, cute dogs, and homesteads. But with every passing year we receive fewer letters and cards than the year before. Maybe it’s because people have already posted the best photo they have on Facebook, or they feel like they’ve already shared what’s going in their lives through social media, so they opt to save the cost and effort of putting something in the mail. But I wonder if maybe there is more to reduced holiday correspondence than meets the eye. Maybe we don’t think we have enough to say, or the right things to say, so we don’t say anything at all. Maybe we put unnecessary pressure on ourselves.
We’ve all read them—the letters that outline the accomplishments of everyone in the family. Even the pets sound gifted, and it’s intimidating to try to emulate anything close to that when we look at our normal and seemingly unremarkable lives. We’ve also read the letters so full of woe and complaints with so many details that we vow to keep our trials to ourselves.
We end up sending something benign or nothing at all.
Christmas offers a unique opportunity to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with the world. And although we may not be able to share peace with the whole world, we can surely share it with those on our Christmas card lists. And one of the best ways to share Christ is simply to share our real lives, our authentic selves. It doesn’t have to be politically correct, and it doesn’t have to complicated. For those of us for whom Christmas correspondence is a joy, let’s aim to keep it real this season.
Our Christmas card list is wide and varied. I have learned the hard way to resist the urge to be PC in our personal letter. We have a few friends who are avowed atheists and even more who embrace a more generic faith, who would be more apt to say they are “spiritual” rather than “Christian.”
I remember showing my husband a draft of a Christmas letter several years ago in which I recounted his work “serving under-resourced youth” in our community. He returned it to me with a perplexed, “Huh?” and asked if I was referring to the free tutoring he offered weekly at our church. Yep, I sure was. He suggested I either call it what it was—tutoring—or leave it out of the letter. And he was right. I didn’t need to wave my “We love social justice and serving the needs of the impoverished” flag. I was grateful for his feedback, which prevented me from piously printing dozens of copies and sending them off to friends and family. We believe in God and attend church regularly, but we don’t expect everyone we know and love to do the same, so why was I working so hard to make our lives “fit” into a mold I thought would be more palatable or attractive than the real thing?
Christ’s humble birth and ministry of love and acceptance is enough. We don’t need to try to dilute it with phrases like “Season’s Greetings.” For the Christ follower, this is Christmas. We call it Christmas. Everyone else may not, but it’s not everyone else’s family letter—it’s ours. I can’t tell you how freeing it was to send out a letter that is a true reflection of who we are rather than who I think (fear) everyone expects us to be. And here’s what I learned: people who love us already know what we believe and appreciate the fact that we don’t try to either water down or elevate our beliefs or to candy-coat our lives at Christmas or any other season. Knowing this makes typing out our letter every year so much easier.
We can all seize the ripe opportunity of Christmastime to offer our best, most authentic selves to those with whom we correspond. The truth is that during the holidays, people are either flying high or disappointed that their life doesn’t look like a beautiful Christmas card.
And isn’t that the true spirit of Christmas? A story of authentic love, the best narrative of them all.
Melinda Mattson will follow any sign that leads to the promise of vintage décor and repurposed treasures. As a wife and mom to two dear daughters, her home is filled with equal measures of sugar and spice. She loves kindness and Jesus and is glad they’re meant to come as a package deal. She aims to embrace both with equal fervor. Melinda blogs at www.melindamattson.com.
Photograph by Paolo Ghedini.