What Happens When You Write a Letter?

Most days I reach into the mailbox with disinterest.  Bills. Advertisements. More bills. Rarely anything else, except at Christmas or for birthdays. After all, if someone personal wanted to contact me, I’d see their note as an email, text, or Facebook message. Who writes letters anymore?

Then a serious illness hit our family. As my husband deals with treatment that has lasted four months and will continue for at least another four months, trips to the mailbox have become a different experience. And I’m no longer disinterested.

What happens when you write a letter?

Almost daily, we receive cards. Lots and lots of cards. Big ones. Small ones. Homemade cards. Hallmark cards. DaySpring cards. And most of them contain a personal note.

It means more than you might think.

Funny thing is, with all our electronic connections, people are starting to realize the value of a handwritten card or letter sent “snail-mail.” Even the Postal Service recognized that. In 2001, they declared April to be National Card and Letter Writing Month.

Okay, yes, that’s a bit self-serving on the part of the Post Office. Of course they want to increase the purchase of postage. But that doesn’t change the truth of how we feel when we receive personal mail. As one Postal Service official said:

“Sure, email and texting is quick and convenient, and Facebook has photos and videos,
but nothing beats the thrill and excitement of opening your mailbox and finding a personal letter addressed to you.”

He’s right. Texts and emails and tweets and Facebook messages are nice. Please don’t misunderstand me. I do appreciate them and send many on a daily basis. But there’s just something about knowing someone took the time to hand write a card or letter, address and stamp the envelope, and carry it to their mailbox or drive it to the Post Office.

In our busy world with our crazy-hectic schedules, that speaks volumes.

So, what happens to the recipient when you write a letter? It changes their day. Perhaps their week. Maybe even their month.

If you really want to show someone you care, take the time. Make an effort. Send a card. Write a letter. Not just during National Letter Writing Month or at Christmas or for birthdays. Do it for no reason at all. Do it just because.

And no, this is not a request for cards and letters for us. We’ve already been blessed. Think of someone you haven’t been in contact with for a while. Drop them a line. You’ll bring a smile to their face…and to their heart.

Or you can make a phone call…but that’s a topic for a different blog post! 😊

Who will you write to (by snail-mail) today?


The Hallmark Halo

You’ve probably seen one or two Hallmark Christmas movies on television. I have. Well…that’s not quite true. I haven’t seen one or two. More like thirty-one or thirty-two. Year after year. And I keep coming back for more, enjoying the warm fuzzies each story provides.

Still…

I’ve noticed something disconcerting the past several years. The more I watch these movies (and the commercials, too!), the more I have to fight the effects of the Hallmark halo – the influence that instills an unrealistic view of Christmas…and life in general.

Don’t get me wrong. I love the stories. The romances. The reconciled relationships—years of strife resolved in 100 minutes (not including commercial breaks). The magic of Christmas—provisions for every need nestled in the bottom of Santa’s sack.

Nativity - 3

But the real “magic” (if I might use that word loosely) of Christmas lies in the One whose birth we celebrate.

His virgin birth.
His sinless life.
His miracles.
His substitutionary, sacrificial death on the cross.
His resurrection.
His deity.

All the things the world rejects.

Yet the rejection of Jesus creates a problem. It leaves a void. A void that has been filled with a captivating substitute. Someone who…

…lives forever.

…does only good.

…miraculously provides for our every need.

Sounds like Jesus, doesn’t it? But it’s not.

The world rejects Jesus’s claims, then ascribes similar characteristics to Santa. They take the touching story of Bishop Nicholas of Myra—a selfless man who served Jesus Christ—and create a myth larger than life.

This isn’t a diatribe against Santa. It’s a lament. These days, it seems we would rather celebrate a deity of our own creation than worship the One whose birth is the cause for the holiday. In the process, we create unreasonable expectations and fuel those expectations with Hallmark movies and commercials. We set ourselves up for failure by requiring

the perfect Christmas tree,

perfect meals,

perfect gifts for everyone on our list,

the perfect Christmas,

then wonder why our Christmases don’t measure up to a manufactured ideal.

I probably won’t stop watching Hallmark movies altogether. But I intend to be more aware of the effects of the Hallmark halo. Unreasonable expectations. Relationships instantly repaired. A sense of entitlement for happy endings.

If my Christmas festivities are to be influenced by something, I want them to be influenced by the One whose birth I celebrate. And I’ll trust God for the “happy endings” He promises to bring in His perfect timing.


Three Months Until Immanuel?

Three months from today. Thirteen weeks. Twelve weekends. Ninety-one days. And then it will be over.

Yes, Christmas is coming. And that statement will either cause you to roll your eyes, panic, or smile, depending on your age, your perspective, and your schedule. 

Remember when we were kids and it felt like Christmas would never arrive? Now we blink and it comes and goes.

Perhaps I’m thinking about Christmas because I recently finished teaching about the birth of Jesus from Matthew 1 in a Bible study class. Or maybe it’s because two friends already have their tree up – one keeps it decorated in the living room year-round, the other put his tree up last week. Perhaps it’s due to having attended the Hallmark card store summer Christmas Open House. It could also be because the Hallmark television channel has announced their Countdown to Christmas movie schedule will begin November 2.

Christmas montageSome of you want to quit reading now, if you haven’t already! You’re thinking that you have to get through Halloween and Thanksgiving before you can even think about Christmas. Or you’re wondering if this will finally be the year that you get your Christmas shopping done before December 24.

Stop. Take a deep breath.

For the next five minutes, don’t think about the decorations, or the shopping, or the cooking. Don’t thing about the financial pressures, or the unrealistic expectations, or the overbooked calendar.

For the next five minutes, think about Immanuel, God with us. Dwell on the truth that by the power of the Holy Spirit, God the Father sent His Son to become our Savior. I love how Charles Spurgeon described it:

“In sacred worship at the tabernacle and the temple, the thought of distance to God was always prominent….in the innermost place, the Holy of Holies, only the high priest entered and just once a year….When the gospel came, we were placed on quite another footing….Distance gave way to closeness….Incarnate Deity has no wall of fire around it.”

All because of the birth of Jesus – Immanuel, God with us. And He is Immanuel all year long, not just in December. So whether it’s January 25, July 25, September 25, or December 25, remember what God has done for us.

When we recall the precious salvation purchased by Immanuel, every day becomes a Merry Christmas!


Stress-Free Christmas Planning

Is it possible to have a stress-free Christmas season?

For some – okay, for me! – the Christmas season begins earlier than for others. Confession time: I’ve been playing Christmas carols for a few weeks now. I just can’t get enough of the season!

Yup, I’m one of those people. Hi, my name is Ava and I’m a Christmasphile. In case you’re wondering, a Christmasphile is someone who is head-over-heels enamored with all things Christmas. We’re out there…singing along to Christmas carols in the car, humming to the canned Christmas music in Walmart, taking a deep whiff — cough, cough—of the cinnamon-scented brooms in Publix.

To match my own early enthusiasm, this weekend, the Hallmark channel will hold their pre-season Christmas movie marathon.  (My two favorites are The Most Wonderful Time of the Year – Sat. at 6pm or Sun. at noon, and The Christmas Card – Sat. at 10pm or Sun. at 4pm.)

Whether you’re a Christmasphile or not, we all share a common enemy. That enemy is time. There’s so much we want to do, and never enough time to do it all. Bake, wrap, decorate, host—how do we fit it all in?

Being a good steward of our time means making time for the important things first. It requires knowing the difference between the important and the urgent—and I promise, they are not always the same. If we lose sight of the true reason for the season – the birth of the Savior, Jesus Christ – then we’ve lost our reason to celebrate.

But even if we remember that the whole point of Christmas is the birth of the One who came to die for us, this season can still become one huge to-do list – with every shred of joy buried in a black hole deep in space.

So, for those who love Christmas, but still hope to hold on to a shred of their sanity as December 25th approaches, I offer a gift: a link to Marcia Ramsland’s 8-week Holiday Chart, updated for 2012, courtesy of Moody Radio’s Midday Connection program. The chart offers a strategic plan to help you minimize the stress and retain the joy of this often challenging time of the year.

Who knows? By the time Thanksgiving arrives, you may actually look forward to Christmas!