I’m the one that manages Christmas cards in our house. My standard operating procedure for 15 years has been as follows:
1. Open the card.
2. Look at the pictures.
3. Read the card and/or letter.
4. Show the kids.
5. Put the card in back in today’s mail pile on the counter, or if I’m feeling really efficient, put it in the Christmas card box.
Sounds a little routine, right? But it’s enjoyable, and I truly love receiving Christmas cards from family and friends. It’s a tradition I’d hate to see go by the wayside.
Since my husband’s usually not home when we open the mail, we have an agreement that he can find all the cards in the mail pile or look in the Christmas box at his leisure. I strive to be his wife, not his mom, so I figure he’ll take initiative to look at the cards as he’s led.
After all the Christmas cards have come in, I bring the full box down to the basement where it’s stored until the following Thanksgiving when we take the seasonal decor out again.
Just this week, I took out the Christmas card box. I opened the box and began going through last year’s cards one last time, something I do at the beginning of every season. I admired each card, verified addresses, added new babies to the master list, removed individuals who passed away, and ripped address labels off to shred (yes, I’m a little OCD like that).
But as I reviewed last year’s cards, I was particularly struck by how some seemed so novel, as if I’d barely seen them, as if I was looking at them for the first time. Beautiful families in the prime of life, retired couples at golf courses and on the beach with grandkids, newlyweds who hand wrote each card, and wise folks who placed focus on the the real meaning of Christmas. Cards from old friends, new friends, colleagues, bosses, immediate family, extended family, and neighbors – an assortment of people we see every day and people we haven’t seen in years.
I pulled some favorites for later viewing – stunning photography, faces exuding joy, beautiful designs, letters that captured my attention with their authenticity and depth, cards brimming with personality, and pictures of dear ones I hadn’t seen for way too long.
But mid-way through the pile, I came across a stack of four or five Christmas cards that had never been opened.
And then I remembered.
I was in such a rush.
I was way too busy.
(And clearly, my husband was too busy, too.)
In my haste, I’d thrown these unopened cards in the Christmas card box to get them out of the mail pile. I can’t stand clutter and excess visual stimuli, so I just wanted to get them “where they belonged.” I assumed I’d sit down to enjoy them after the hustle and bustle of Christmas settled down.
But I never did.
So I found myself sitting in front of the Christmas card box, a full year later, with the cold realization that I never did open those cards. I never took time to sit down and enjoy them like I thought I would.
I sat in silence, ashamed, embarrassed.
I couldn’t help but wonder…
What does this say about me?
Who do I say I am?
Who am I, really?
Do I really love and care for people like I claim? Or am I just filled up with a bunch of words and good intentions?
And why am I so busy? Why have I allowed my life to get so big, so filled up?
What makes me so special to have left peoples’ Christmas cards unopened for a whole year?
There was nothing unusual or unlovable about those four or five unopened Christmas cards that made me throw them in the box and forget about them for a whole year. In fact, they were just like the others – families with littles, marriages thriving in a culture that values otherwise, blended families, and families impacted by disabilities. But that’s what embarrassed me most. I wouldn’t ever want ANYONE to feel as if they’ve been discarded, no matter how busy I am, no matter how preoccupied I am.
I opened each unopened card carefully, examined them respectfully and as lovingly as possible, and then I sat in the quiet, in embarrassment and shame, again. For I had not been who I say I am.
Jesus says clearly, “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” (John 15:12) And just a few verses later, “This is my command: Love each other.” (John 15:17)
In our rushing, in our hustling and bustling, in our worrying about what’s in front of us and all that needs to be done, we forget to still ourselves and really LOVE the ones in front of us. Let’s be realistic, sometimes we don’t even have TIME for the ones right in front of us.
When I threw those unopened cards in the Christmas card box and forgot about them for a whole year, I wasn’t remembering that those cards represented human beings, created in the image of God. I wasn’t remembering that those cards represented OTHERS, worthy of love and care, respect, dignity, a moment of my attention, EVEN IF I was “too crazed, too busy” with life.
So this year, regardless of my mood, regardless of my circumstances, I’m going to still myself longer, sit in the quiet a little more. Because I want to open every card and ponder the significance of each life that’s blessed mine. I want to love as He loves.
And maybe next Christmas, the cards will look a lot more familiar than they did this year.