Christmas Letters

Another one of the traditions we enjoy at Christmas time are the Christmas Letters. For many, the only time we hear from them or they from us in the course of a year is the annual Christmas Letter. It’s always interesting to read the year sized up in a single letter. It sometimes gives us a chance to put the year in perspective after we are through it in a way that we couldn’t quite have done while we were in it. In our household, Keri writes the letter (as did her mom for her family). She has such a knack for what to include and how to say it (I’m not trying to get out of taking my turn—well, maybe). We have a binder of Family Christmas Letters dating back to 1987, our first year in Scotland, when I started my post-graduate studies. Most every year I read through the letters again, of the highs and lows, smiles and tears, but always of God’s steady presence through the years. An interesting piece to this Christmas tradition is the list of names to whom the letters are sent, seeing names added over the years, some with whom we’ve lost contact, and some who have gone to a heavenly address. Presently, our mailbox has a stack of Christmas cards with letters awaiting pick up. With the Christmas Letter, we are sending a little bit of ourselves to others. I wish we could actually go to all of the destinations and personally visit with our friends and tell them the stories ourselves. But that is not possible, the letter will have to do. It is interesting that God, as Paul puts it in Galatians 4:4, has sent us a Christmas Letter. but when the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman God’s letter to us was also sending something of himself, but not words on a piece of paper, but the Living Word in the person of his Son. The idea of sending forth means that what was with God he has been sent out to someplace else. Just like the postal service picks up our Christmas cards and letters and delivers them to the doors of the posted addresses. What was with us will then be with those to whom we send it. But God’s delivery service was a young woman named Mary. The letter was unlike any that was ever sent. It was deity supernaturally embedded in Mary’s womb. And those to whom this letter was addressed was the human race. An angel of the Lord tells Joseph about the baby in Mary’s womb, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son and they will call him Immanuel”—which means, “God with us.” (Matt. 1:20b-23; Isa. 7:14 cited) I can describe it according to what the Bible teaches us, but I can’t begin to understand it, other than that this sending was an expression of God’s unfathomable love that was in part addressed to you and to me. What I do know is that the letter is intended to be read. It tells us much about the Sender, as John’s Gospel reminds us, In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (John 1:1) The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14) No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side has made him known. (John 1:18) Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” (John 14:8-9a) This week we celebrate the coming of God’s Christmas Letter to us. The marvelous thing about God’s letter is that he came to tell us about it in Person. As the angel of the Lord told the shepherds: Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. (Luke 2:10-11) The promise that this good news is for all people would include all of us. Because of this, we also have every reason to take the angel’s encouragement to heart about not being afraid. The events of ‘the past year’ of God’s Letter tell us why . . . When everything was ready, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman.