I don't know about you, but there have been years when I have cried over preparing and sending the family Christmas card. Whether it's the list maintenance and figuring out just how many cards are too many cards to send out, the budget surrounding the card, the custom letter, the stamps, or developing a custom photo card through an online company... I find myself easily overwhelmed with this custom.
One thought I had about the caper of figuring out which Nativity card to buy from the Knights of Columbus, which stamp to slap on the front, which family photo has the most of us looking remotely towards the vicinity of the camera, is that it is just like many of the cultural customs surrounding the cultural Christmas season... it can be distracting. What we battle spiritually is celebrating Advent while allowing our children to make memories with the cultural offerings like a list for Santa, a festival of lights walk, ugly sweater contests… just remember… the family Christmas card is just a custom, and it doesn’t promise a ticket to Heaven. BUT I daresay it presents an opportunity to witness how Christ has blessed us in our life over the past year and how we’ve grown closer to Him and to each other.
I love Advent, and I love the meditation, the preparation, the expectation, and salvation history paired with Christ’s second-coming in our Mass readings.
With the goal of reducing the distractions and increasing the witness to faith, I've reached a number of tips for keeping the Caper of Christmas Cards drama down to a minimum, and here they are:
1. Minimize the List – We have a large extended family, thus many of our recipients remain consistent. So if you need to minimize the list… reduce it to the people you see more than once a year, the people who are sacramentally connected to your family (Godparents, Confirmation Sponsors, Youth Leaders, Pastor and Priests), the people who share with you that they personally love receiving your card (whether they send one or not), and whatever other qualifiers you want to add. My overarching thought on list maintenance is that it can be a witness of faith as well as a budget buster… weigh each of those according to your own conscience and pocketbook.
2. Limit the Design Time – I’m an editing perfectionist, so this is ultra hard for me. This year in particular, I have decided not to create a custom card via vistaprint. My decision came down to a knowledge of a need for less perfectionism and scrutiny and for more humility and simplicity. Maybe you have a different approach, but my thought is that if the design takes more than 3 or 4 hours, you’re creating something that is replacing time with family and/or friends.
3. Consider a Realistic vs. an Overromanticized Nativity Scene – this is a sticking point for me, but it is only my opinion – there are too many cards with this unrealistic version of a pristine group of well-behaved animals and a pristine child who was born in among flies and the scent of hay. My family of five children is not pristine, Christ’s birth was not pristine, so I would like to be consistent with the messaging and inspire us all to focus on Christ amid the chaos and imperfections of this world so full of sin and disease.
4. Reduce Paper – we want to increase our care of the environment, right? Faithful Stewardship is where my prayer and conscience leads me, so the year that I had the card, the custom letter, the saint card, and the envelope, I not only had an overabundance of papercuts, but I also had really not made a conscientious decision to perhaps minimize the amount of paper that may not end up on my family and friends’ respective refrigerators. This year, I’m just including a photo and a quarter-sheet of a letter. Honestly, I’m just seeking more grace and peace in my life… fewer words are helping with that.
5. Replace Obligation with Witness – instead of considering this an obligation, while addressing each envelope, pray for each recipient and think about the ways in which they are needing Christ in their life right now. While writing the annual updates, minimize the obligation by sharing a few faith aspects beyond the sacramental facts – how did your children grow knowledge of God’s love this year? How did your marriage benefit from that Marriage Mass homily? Without going overboard, there is a concrete opportunity here to speak to the heart of those who receive our news… also share the words of the Good News.
6. Pick a Scripture of the Year – maybe it can be comical if your family is known for its humor, or maybe a number of losses of loved ones this year has made the scripture of the year more meditative – share it with your list! If you haven’t felt like you have a scripture for the year, pray about one while you meditate on how God has blessed you this past year.
7. Pray for each person on your list as you address the cards! Why not make it an occasion of growing in grace and holiness?
Embrace the cross and enjoy the ride. Viva Cristo Rey!