Christmas Cards and Funerals

Dear Friends Who Sent Christmas Cards,

Thank you! Your manger scenes, magi, snowmen, and penguins decorate our kitchen walls. Your photos of vacations, pets, children, and grandchildren delight us. We have noted your address changes and read your annual updates aloud at dinner. We have wagered on whose card would arrive first this season (Mrs. Quade, you win again!), and whose would greet us long after the neighbors' Christmas trees lay in heaps on the curb. Your Christmas (and a few Chanukah) wishes brighten our home.

Our family never made it to the Christmas card level this season--not even to the Epiphany card level, our perennial wheelhouse. We know how tricky sending cards can be, so we heartily appreciate your thoughtfulness.

While I'm especially fond of the cards with personal, handwritten greetings, pre-printed photo cards are lovely, too. We hang every card in the kitchen where we're sure to appreciate them every day. In a few weeks, we will take them all down and arrange the photos you sent on a cheerful bulletin board in the hallway. Doing this will remind me of funerals.

Maybe because I sing at so many funerals each year, I can't help thinking of those photo boards families assemble for their deceased loved ones. This funeral board/Christmas photo comparison does not sadden me; it's rather a cheerful thought. Instead of a hundred funeral-goers contemplating photos featuring just one person, my Christmas photo board allows me to contemplate a hundred of you, my family and friends.

Funeral photo boards honor a life that has withered. My Christmas photo board celebrates life in full bloom. Your Christmas cards, commemorating the birth of Christ, evoke hope, and faith, and love. Your greetings encourage me. You help me pray. And as I pass the bulletin board in the hallway every day this year, I will pray for you.

I will also strive to pray for the millions of people outside the frame of my little bulletin board. How consoling to know that God has a universal bulletin board conained in the Heart of Jesus. He remembers each of us there in his Heart, where our names are written. The Scriptures help me pray as I contemplate the tremendous family we are, brothers and sisters in Jesus.
Are not five sparrows sold for two small coins? Yet not one of them has escaped the notice of God. Even the hairs of your head have all been counted. Do not be afraid. You are worth more than many sparrows.
Luke 12:6-7

You formed my inmost being;
you knit me in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, because I am wonderfully made;
wonderful are your works!
My very self you know.
My bones are not hidden from you,
When I was being made in secret,
fashioned in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw me unformed;
in your book all are written down;
my days were shaped, before one came to be.
How precious to me are your designs, O God;
how vast the sum of them!
Were I to count them, they would outnumber the sands;
when I complete them, still you are with me.
Psalm 139:13-18