Friday, December 19, 2008

A new kind of Xmas letter

I like Xmas cards, though I honestly don't know what I'm supposed to do with them. If your kids are cute enough (like the Thomas girls), and if we have enough space on our fridge, they adorn our lovely Frigidaire. But if neither of those are the case, they get tossed immediately. I mean what else is one supposed to do with them?

I'm a bit more ambivalent with Xmas letters, you know the kind of letters that give you a SportsCenter highlight version of the year in review. Yesterday Amy and I received a Xmas letter from a woman in our church who pointed us to Jesus and our need for Him to return. When we finished it (so it was obviously short), we were both greatly encouraged and challenged. Amy and I are thankful for some of the elderly people in our lives who have refused to sit back and waste their health; instead they bless the socks off everyone who comes in their path.

And I really like Xmas prayer letters from missionaries or other ministries like RUF. I like to know what to pray for. Otherwise I won't do it. Seriously.

But what I really don't like is the standard Xmas letter that tells everyone how great your family is doing, how many tricks your dog can do, how wonderfully sweet the kids are, and how well they are doing in sports and school. We both know that you're either lying or you're oblivious to reality and the affects of sin on the human heart (I don't care how young-we've already seen how selfish Connar is after he grabbed a toy away from a girl in the nursery!)

I'll tell you what kind of letter I really want to hear. I want to hear how poorly you've done as a parent. How you've yelled at your kids too many times, how you drive them crazy, how you've forgotten to pray for them, how you've disappointed them and let them down (because as much as you'd like to be-you're not Jesus).

I want to hear how they've failed to love you, how they've hurt you, how they've disappointed you and let you down (because they have often become your idol-and they are not Jesus either).

But please don't stop there. Then I want to hear how Jesus' cross is so big not only in your life, but your family's life. That you know you're all forgiven despite the mess you and your kids have made. That you know Jesus loves your kids more than you do, and that He will be faithful even when you are faithless (II Tim 2). That you know He will continue his work of conforming you to His image and will not stop until He completes it. That he promises a new record, a new heart, and one day a new body and new world.

I don't really get many Xmas letters at all. My reflections are more from letters I've read and the sappy sentiment from which they are sent. But if I had my vote, this is the kind of letter I want to read, because then I will know that Jesus is truly at work.

Please understand that I'm not blasting people who don't write letters such as these. I've never actually seen one to tell you the truth. The question I struggle with now, even as I write this, "Will I be able to write such a letter in a few years when Connar, Amy, and I disappoint and hurt each other?" I hope I believe in the Cross enough to do so. I guess you'll just have to check your mailbox in December of 2010 to find out.


Randy Greenwald said...

I'm with you on the type of letter we should send and receive. There is a model out there, but you are probably not on his mailing list. He is a pastor friend of mine whose letters I generally always read first, because they are so honest and real, telling the downs and the ups. They're beautiful. If I get one this year, I'll share it with you.

However, perhaps we should extend some grace to those whose kids are all above average and good looking and never make any mistakes. Perhaps THEY only have as models the everything is wonderful type letters. Maybe their friends – you, me, others – need to start writing such letters! It's a thought.

Anonymous said...


This is a fantastic blog post! Every year we receive a plethora of Christmas letters that exclaim the accomplishments of people as opposed to exclaiming the accomplishments of the Creator of those people. Each afternoon around 5:00 I sit and read them and I feel pretty badly about myself and my failures. Your post today is a great reminder that looking to Jesus instead of what I've not done in my life is the Gospel...which is the true meaning of Christmas!

Thanks again,

Geoffsnook said...


Agreed, we need to start a New Kind of Xmas letter. If I'm the one complaining, I need to start writing! I actually don't receive many Xmas letters, but my father and mother in law receive them by the truckloads. My mother-in-law, was actually the inspiration behind the post.


In the words of Steve Brown, "May your children rise up and call you blessed." Glad to be an encouragement. Keep plowing away girl and celebrating Jesus!

Anonymous said...

Just a suggestion: put the accumulated Christmas cards/letters into a basket. In January or throughout the year, take one at a time, re-read, and pray for that person/family -- especially if you know troubles they are experiencing which may be too difficult or embarrassing to write about.

Gail and Keith said...

All those Christmas letters I just had printed at Office Depot are now being fed into the shredder.........

NOT. I don't send Christmas cards or letters, but I think you might be a bit harsh Geoff. I get the point you're making, but I just hope anyone who may have read your blog just after they posted a newsletter to you is not red-faced and embarrassed and maybe even a little hurt. G

Geoffsnook said...


I appreciate your concern. Not my intent to embarrass, but really to get folks thinking. I was a bit harsh, and I'll definitely try to watch my tone during any "rant-ish" blog posts.

Today I did receive a Xmas letter that was exactly the kind I was promoting. He spoke of struggle. He also spoke of God's faithfulness and gave Him the glory for the good things He had done this past year. Tom set a great example for me to follow.

Gail and Keith said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gail and Keith said...

Yes, Tom's Christmas newsletter was a blessing to me; I wrote him a note thanking him for sharing. G