Do you like Christmas letters? You know, the ones that tell about the family and what has happened to them over the past year. The variations are familiar, but there seem to be fewer each year. Perhaps the children grow up, lessening the incentive. Or, maybe just fewer people are writing letters anymore.
I, for one, like Christmas letters. To me, they are good news letters. Several old friends and I communicate only once a year. Yes, by Christmas letter!
A Most Unusual Christmas Letter
This week, I received a most unusual Christmas letter. The largest part of the body of this epistle contained 17 lines of text consisting only of 146 names. The author described this as “an abbreviated list of a wider community who has shaped the life of our family.” Lives as letters shape life!
Ancient prophecy recorded in the Old Testament foretold the birth of Jesus. The writers of the four gospels of the New Testament announce the birth. But only Luke gives any detail of the actual events of the birth night.
The Penultimate Christmas Letter
Matthew begins his Christmas “letter” perhaps a year or so later. This letter gives the account of the visit of the Magi. Mark starts his letter even later in Jesus’ life. Finally, John, mentions no birth details at all. Instead his “letter” describes the eternal Jesus—one with God, the light of the world, the Word made flesh. In summary, these four Gospels, taken together, become the ultimate—more accurately, the pen-ultimate— “Christmas letter.”
Over the 2000 years since Jesus’ birth, believers have written and shared many “Christmas letters” of peace and goodwill. Exactly 200 years ago, Joseph Mohr wrote “Silent Night” for his small church in the Austrian Alps. Concurrently, Franz Grueber supplied the beautiful tune, “Stille Nacht” which further enables this hymn to resonate in our hearts.
The Ultimate Christmas Letter
Perhaps the ultimate Christmas letter can only be written after Christ comes again. Until that time, Isaac Watts Christmas letter of 1719 will have to do.
“Joy to the World! The Lord is come; Let earth receive her king. Let every heart prepare Him room. And heaven and nature sing.”