Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Christmas Cards

About this time you will probably be thinking about Christmas cards! This is the time of year you make a list of those folk who ‘must’ have a card sent to them, even though you ignore them the rest of the year, and indeed may not even like them! Families being families and folk being folk, you send them anyway. Now I understand why people get trapped into the Christmas card habit, but fear not I have good news, it is NOT compulsory! I had a legal eagle search the laws of both Scotland and England and nowhere was it compulsory to send a card. So if you don’t send a card to the person you do not like nothing will happen to you, honest. In fact, if you do not send them a card you may well benefit them also as they will be freed next year from the need to keep in touch with you! Hallelujah! One year I put this to the test. I worked out all those I WANTED to send cards to, and all those I thought I ought to keep in touch with. I considered whether it was worth while sending to some, and whether they rally wanted or needed to contact me. After considering how many cards either party might send needlessly I made a list of those I would bless with my cheap cards. I felt no guilt!

The next year, those I had omitted from my ‘must/want to send’ list, omitted me from theirs. We were all glad. Money and effort was no longer wasted. Friendships, occasional and worthwhile, remained. I tell you not to be oppressed by the need to send cards to folk you wish to drop. They may feel the same towards you! Anyway, if within the next year they infer they wish to keep contact no harm is done by the loss of a card, is there?

Now I realise this is not always possible, in the real world compromises must be made. One year I worked in an office staffed with 14 women. At Christmas time these girls gave each other cards. As we sat at desks next to each other, and as most of them were Hindus and the others Muslim, I found this desperate need to give cards somewhat strange. I did point out the novelty of being forced by such to waste money on a card to join the dozen already crowding each desk, however the noise of my protest, and the physical threats if I failed in their duty, was overwhelming, and for the sake of peace I obeyed. I did suggest one car with their name on it, and they could tick it off as it passed, but this was not welcomed. Compromise? Me? Oh yes, the boss,she was an Irish catholic, and very rough I can tell you!

Wise Men?
But consider carefully the cards available. Are they really representative of Christmas as it actually occurred? Matthew is the main man where Christmas is concerned, and Luke tells us from what I think is Mary’s point of view. A child’s birth tends to stick in a girls mind I have discovered. Take the arrival of the magi for instance. These men, usually referred to as ‘Wise men,’ don’t appear to me to be to wise on most Christmas cards do they? Three men on camels, staring up at a very bright, beautifully drawn spectacular star, one pointing skywards implying the other two are to dumb to see the star that lightens the world around and fill a third of the card! Some wise men they! But nowhere does it say three men arrived. They presented three gifts, Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh, but nothing to say how many men arrived. Anyway, three men on camels coming all the way, possibly for the Babylon area, on camels with a vacuum flask and a packet of sandwiches does not appear to my little mind to be too accurate. Each man would have had a party of men with him, servants, probably slaves, several camels and donkeys, and would have joined with as many others as possible to travel the vast distance in safety. One Italian film on St Matthews gospel shows three such men meeting up and travelling together. Each one talking loudly to drown out the hand waving yelling servant hordes with them! That is much more realistic than three lads on their own, and much more biblical in my view also.

Baby in Manger?

But what is in front of these men? Usually a small wooden hut, surrounded by a bright shining yellow glow awaits them. A wooden barn may contain the family, with attendant cow and donkey happy in the background. Everything clan and bright and very Hollywood, and like Hollywood have as much chance of reality as I have of becoming Pope! None at all. It is most likely Jesus was born in a cave. As you probably know better than me (I just think I know a lot, mostly I find others actually know facts), Bethlehem was on a hill, and the folks in Israel used these caves for many purposes. One such was a s a shelter for animals, and sometimes people lived there also. This is not too strange as in the British Isles in days past many folk lived in what sometimes were called ‘Black houses.’ Small stone built houses, divided into two parts. In one side were the animals, in the other the family. The animals helped keep the place warm at least! These turfed roofed houses were still in evidence in some places at the beginning of the 20th century! It is no wonder that by the time a pregnant Mary and Joseph had walked from Nazareth Bethlehem was full. Yes I said walked, I doubt they would have had the cash for a donkey, and if they had in such a society Joseph would have been the one on the Mule, not her! In the wall of such place a ledge was chipped out and filled with fodder for the animals feedstuffs, and it was into one of these that Jesus, the Son of God, was laid, wrapped in the usual manner in swaddling clothes, to sleep. The place would have been clean as it was possible for a cave barn to be, the animals would have been, well animals, and Mary would have been knackered! As would Joseph, he of course had the hard job in all this. Knowing what they both knew about the announcement of the birth, the arrival of these strange, generous rich men, then the shepherds (the lowest of the low at that time), it would be interesting to read Josephs thoughts as the action occurred around him.

Maybe it is just me that thinks most Christmas cards have little to do with Christmas, just as folks who spout all to easily ‘The real meaning of Christmas’ and bounce over -zealously on the telly in programmes recorded last March, have as much idea of the real Christmas as I have of being rich! Christmas is a time for commercial exploitation, but this does not mean we ought to be Oliver Cromwellian about it. I like Christmas pudding! It is a time to get together with friends and family, it is a time folk find themselves in a church, and it can be a time for bringing good news to those who never hear it. But for Christians it ought to be a time to emphasis the biblical truths, and not half truths expounded on Christmas cards.

There are other cards which reflect a Christmas of the mind as opposed to reality, you know the ones, the happy Victorian scene, the one where a stagecoach glides through the snow filled streets past well dressed happy folks, with kids throwing snowballs and glowing shop windows in the background. Such cards tend to forget the kids had rickets, one third of the population were on the breadline. In fact usually this means is they had a job tomorrow, but often and many as a third did not! The happy folk in the shops were working 98 or more hours a week, and the happy folks who could afford to buy would either die in childbirth or from TB or some disease we use a few drugs to cure. Cynical? No just realistic. Many Victorians were happy, but these scenes are deceptive, I wish a better Christmas, a more honest one.

The Robin sitting on the snow covered branch is another deception, as the bird is with us all year round. It is also an adulterous bully boy in the bird world, very Christmassy, if you are shallow enough to think ‘Eastenders’ is worth watching!
Snow scenes and snowmen abound on cards, this is amazing as outside of the Scottish highlands we never see snow till February ,and anyway snow is cold horrid stuff that freezes everything, causes accidents and I hate it anyway! Send it back to the Arctic where it is needed I say!

Shall I bother to convey my opinions on cards fronted by Santa Claus? Or if you are middle class and ‘Santa’ is too childish for you, change it to ‘Father Christmas’ and make this fairy tale character, usurped by the ‘Coco Cola’ company, into something more acceptable. How many folks enjoy the kiddies belief in ‘Santa Claus’ but never explain the Jesus was lying in that manger in a cave? Burn Santa ‘s sleigh and eat the reindeer I say! And when you are at it ask him why I never got that CD I wanted last time!

‘Peace’ is common, ‘Peace on earth to men’ the cards often claim, although many are now correctly inserting the better ‘peace to men of goodwill’ as opposed to ‘Peace to all men,’ as peace is offered but too often ignored. The Dove with the olive branch is very biblical, at least when the snows melt in February. ‘Joy’ is often seen on cards, and such cards, often in boxed sets, are bought from the local Clintons by miserable looking folk who have not smiled since they won £10 on the first week of the Lottery. ‘Joy’ indeed! But honestly, how many Christians make you feel ‘JOY’ when you meet them? All too few I say. The Holly and the Ivy just sting the fingers and should be placed, neatly, on a compost heap where they would be of more use.

Cards made to placate the politically correct, saying ‘Happy Holiday’ instead of ‘Happy Christmas should be recycled. Companies who insist on such greetings so as not to cause ‘offence’ should be sued for being offensive. Just what exactly should be done to those cards which, when opened, ring out computerised versions of Christmas Carols I leave to your imagination. But if one comes my way I suggest you transfer yourself into any regiment now patrolling in Afghanistan. That would be safer!

I gave up on religious cards long ago. They do not convey biblical truth, and all to often are discarded unnoticed by the recipient. I only use carefully selected humorous cards, such as the one shown, that is my preferred card this year, as they are better for the folk at the other end. At least they get a laugh! A minister friend had dozens of cards one year, many from folk worldwide, and far too many were routine religious type cards. People were afraid to send something frivolous in case he was offended! Incredible to think that people can be so stupid!
Use cards well, and do not follow convention as that stifles life. If it must be religious make it biblical or forget it! But I think most folks will be happier with humour. That's closer to what it really is all about.


Shalene said...

Well, I'll be honest, I hadn't read your blog until today, but I shall be reading it again regularly. (You may thank Isaiah for this.) I think you're funny! I liked this post, very true. I have a hard time finding a good card to send out at Christmas time as well. I hope you find one you like. (I didn't see a linki to the humorous one you mentioned.) Blessings to you, and I hope you'll be able to take some time to read mine as well.

Gerry Hatrić said...

The Queen Christmas card is superb. By the way, since you have so much spare time, here ye are:

I know. Darn. Another idiotic meme. But this one's fairly enjoyable. And I thought of you.

Gerry Hatrić said...

Oops. My blogger identity went awry there.