Friday, December 16, 2016

Christmas Cards

Note: I wrote the following article in 1999, but it continues to express how I feel. Perhaps you, too, Dear Reader, can relate.
I always delay getting started on the annual project of mailing Christmas cards for I know it will take considerable time during the season of the year when extra time is hard to come by.

For me, the first and most difficult step is updating the names and addresses stored in my computer. Every year, I release a deep sigh as I realize how many changes need to be made in the Christmas card list. Some of our friends have moved; others have merely switched from a street to a post office box address or vice versa. In some families, marriages of adult children require me to change the names of the recipients from “Mr. & Mrs….and daughters” to “Mr. & Mrs.…and family” in order to include the new son-in-law. Sometimes I need to add the name of a new baby, but not so this year.

As I make the changes, I rejoice with those who have an address change due to the finding of a new job that required them to relocate; with those who moved closer “home;” and with those who, following retirement, moved into their much-dreamed-about house on the beach or in the mountains.
However, I find myself blinking back tears as I delete the names of those who have passed away since last Christmas. In several situations, a “Mr. and Mrs.” becomes either a “Mr.” or a “Ms.” I update those changes easily by pointing and clicking my mouse and then making a few key strokes. As I do so, I become acutely aware that the surviving spouse and family members find changes infinitely more difficult to make.

As I remove the names of the deceased, I pause to reflect on each one.  I recall some of the experiences we shared. I think about the special things they did or said. I think about the things they liked. I think about where they lived. I think about the circumstances surrounding their death. And I know that I miss them this Christmas. 

In the midst of missing them, I give thanks for the impact each one had on my life. Thus, preparing Christmas cards is a bittersweet experience. Mourning the passing of loved ones.  Celebrating the gift of life others continue to receive. Weeping with those who are undergoing difficulties. Rejoicing with those whose dreams have been fulfilled. Acknowledging that certain relationships have come to an end. Welcoming new people into our circle of family and friends.  

Despite feeling such a range of emotions, I am able to look at every name on the list and say, as did the Apostle Paul, “Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God” (Philippians 1:3, New Living Translation). And, again using the words of the Apostle Paul, I can confidently say to each family, regardless of their situation, that “God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them” (Romans 8:28, NLT), and “that nothing can ever separate us from His love” (Romans 8:38, NLT).

When I begin to give thanks to God for each person on the list, I see that all the steps involved in sending Christmas cards become a gateway to joy, and I wonder why I delay beginning the journey.