Christmas Letters and Christ
By Al Boyce
Over the Christmas holidays, many of us will probably receive Christmas letters from friends and family. These letters traditionally provide a snapshot of all the previous year’s activities and achievements.
Christmas letters have gotten something of a bad reputation because some families seem to be boasting of their achievements. But what really got me thinking about these letters is one I received from a family that I know is involved in Christian outreach.
I avidly read their letter, thinking I would be blessed by how they had started bringing food to the homeless and how the dad had begun his own outreach to men searching for meaning in their lives.
I sifted through information about kids' soccer teams, music lessons, who was applying to which college, and how busy they all were. Somewhere in the middle, they mentioned one daughter was singing in the church choir.
Aha, I thought, here it comes.
But the letter finished up without one mention of Jesus, or outreach, or ministry.
It's easy to pass this off with some "politically correct" rationalizations:
"This letter isn't just to Christians. I wouldn't want to offend anyone."
"My faith is 'private.' People don't need to know about it."
But the Bible really doesn't leave us these options. Look at Matthew 5:13-16:
"You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.
You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven."
As "salt" we are to create a thirst for Christ among those we meet. Like salt, we are to help preserve God's ways in a culture that often turns away from Him.
If we have accepted Christ as Lord; if we are allowing the Holy Spirit to live through us and transform us into the likeness of Jesus – why are we reluctant to let others know?
Suppose, for a second, that every Christmas letter was blind copied to Jesus himself (after all, "Christ" is in all of them – it could happen).
How many of us would be rushing to edit out those boastful sections about our big promotion at work? What about the details of our family ski trip to the Swiss Alps?
What, then, would we use to fill in those blanks if Jesus were our anticipated audience? Did we do something for the poor this year? Did we help bring others to Christ?
I wonder whether the Apostle Paul had Christmas letters in mind when he wrote the following in his own letter:
"You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everybody. You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts." (2 Corinthians 3: 2-3)
Suppose Jesus sent a Christmas letter to us.
Beloved, (it might read):
I pray this season finds you well.
I just want to share some of the highlights from this year.
Thanks to many of your brothers and sisters, thousands of people have come to faith in Me this year. Please pray for those who have gone astray, that they may find their way back.
Many of your brothers and sisters in Africa, in Asia, and elsewhere have given their lives to follow me. Rest assured, they will be with Me in Paradise.
Many more of your siblings have reached out to the poor, the homeless, the crippled, the hungry, the sick and those in prison. And those who have reached out will receive blessings that will follow them into Heaven.
I'm sure next year will be equally busy.
The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.
With all My love,
Your Savior and Lord
I don't know about you, but a Christmas letter from Jesus would get MY attention.
Maybe it's time Christmas letters from us got some attention – for Him.
Al Boyce is a former wire-service reporter living in Raleigh, NC, with his wife, Cindy, and three sons. Much of his writing is fueled by his family's ministries to the homeless, prisoners and others on the fringe of society. You can write to Al care of the Letters page of this magazine.