We’ve all received them. Little Ginny won the spelling bee, Fred made the dean’s list, Dad got a big bonus, and Mom manages to cook gourmet, Martha Stewart-esque meals every night while working at an important job and volunteering in the kids’ classrooms several times a week. Even the dog’s accomplishments are listed – Rover just loves his daily 10-mile runs with mom or dad and even saved one of the kids from choking. The English rose garden in the yard might be mentioned. Some photos of the family vacation to Hawaii are included in the montage - along with a photo of the brand new car.
What we don’t read in most Christmas letters is that (note, these are generic examples – check my Christmas letter for the real Howerton ones - although the photo posted is real). Johnny just finished his second rehab program, or that Mom suspects that Dad is a workaholic or addicted to pornography. No one mentions that Mom had an affair or that grandma is an alcoholic or that Aunt Margaret’s breast cancer is causing them to doubt their faith. We don’t read that parents are exhausted and in need of a break or that the family is depending on the local Food Bank for survival. We don’t read that anyone in the family is hurting or struggling or grieving. Instead, we see photos of families at their best - smiling, matching, and very put together. Readers are meant to envy how well the Joneses are doing.
What’s incredibly ironic about the modern state of the Christmas Letter is that the story of Jesus’ birth, the very reason for the holiday, is not a very put together story. I’m pretty sure that Mary’s parents wouldn’t have sent out a Christmas card with a caption that read, “Our 14 year old magically got pregnant and then gave birth near farm animals! Merry Christmas!”
The whole point of Jesus’ birth is that messiness is redeemable – that there is healing and hope, that you DON’T have to have it all together, that you can come as you are. Honestly, in Jesus' economy, messiness wins.
It's when we think we have it all together that we're in trouble.