In the first chapter of the book of Luke we are told,
“God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, to a virgin whose name was Mary and said, ‘Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you’.”
The Greek word that is translated greetings is elsewhere translated “rejoice” in the New Testament. It seems that in angel-speak the only phrase that can suffice when good news is virtually brimming in your throat is “joyful greetings.” Gabriel did not mean to frighten Mary as he approached her but we are told nonetheless that Mary was thoroughly shaken. She was shocked and wondered what could possibly be behind such “joyful greetings.” Likewise the shepherds were equally stunned when Gabriel burst on their scene months later announcing the same “greetings of great joy.” Joyful greetings and the events of Christmas just seem to go together.
To send forth joyful greetings in response to the good news of Christ’s birth is a natural reaction. The shepherds on the morning of Christ’s birth went throughout Bethlehem passing on the “joyful tidings” that they had received to even more astonished recipients. And the greetings have gone on and on now for over two-thousand years. The question is, as you face Christmas are you― like the many faithful who have gone before you― brimming with “joyful greetings”? Or is “bah-humbug” more akin to what is really on your lips? It may be time for an attitude check. If Christians are not prepared to send forth the good news through Christmas greetings who will? This is why it is important that before we launch into the holy day festivities we prepare our hearts and have our joy rekindled.
All of those who claim Jesus as their Savior are ambassadors of God’s Kingdom and like Gabriel it is our duty to deliver the life changing Christmas greetings. The true Christmas greetings ―the good tidings of the gospel are calling out to be sent. Sent to the checker at the grocery store, to the single mom up the street, to the teen-ager next door, and to whoever crosses your path and is willing to listen. But are you willing to get involved in the process? Christmas greetings can be spoken, they can be written, and they can even be sung. They can be delivered, in a letter, in a card, in an e-mail, over the phone, or over the back fence but they must be delivered.
In Matthew 28, following his resurrection Jesus went forth with excited anticipation to be reunited with his disciples and after he said, (you guessed it) “Greetings” he made it clear what they ought to do. “Go into all the world and teach all nations, the things I have made known to you.” Jesus called his disciples to participate in the spreading of the good news. Just like Gabriel, the angel choir, the shepherds and the wise men, they were called to go forth and meet and greet new ones with the news of the incarnate Christ’s coming to the world and the salvation he has to offer. This Christmas before you get all involved with the buying of presents, before you take on the task of decking the halls, or preparing for the endless holiday meals, ask the Lord who he would have you share some “Christmas greetings” with. Who would God send you to as a messenger of His timeless good news? Pray and ask the Lord to show you the divine appointments he has scheduled for you this season. Be like Gabriel so many years ago and be faithful to share the good tidings of Christ’s birth, death and resurrection with a waiting and wondering recipient.
The mailing of Christmas greetings has been an American tradition for well over one hundred and fifty years. The first Christmas cards actually came from humble origins beginning as handwritten letters and artwork sent from school children to their families around the holidays. It was not until after the invention of the steam printing press in the 1840s that Christmas cards as we know them today began to appear. The first cards specifically for use at Christmas were printed in England in 1843 and within a decade the custom of sending cards soon spread to the United States. Initially, Americans had to import their Christmas cards from Europe and it was 1875 before Christmas cards were published in the U.S.
The first Christmas cards were not cheap and with prices ranging from .75 to $1.25 only wealthy Americans of the time could afford to send them. It was the postcard boom of the early 1900’s that made sending Christmas greetings a custom that most Americans could afford. By 1907 the American public was wrapped in the idea of the “penny postcard”, and with more and more Americans moving west, mailing a postcard was an inexpensive way to send Christmas communications to the relatives and friends back east. It was the “penny postcard” craze that firmly established the tradition of sending Christmas greetings in the U.S.
Christmas greetings in the 21st century have endured a similar twist of the times. As expenditures for Christmas cards have again become “pricey” and the cost to mail them equally high, Americans of the last decade have once again changed the face of Christmas greetings. Today the least expensive way to send a message to those we hold dear is a down-loaded e-mail full of Christmas tidings. These digital Christmas-grams have begun to replace the Christmas cards and postcards of old and sending personally designed messages clad with an individual’s personal digital photos has become the new craze.
How ever you choose to send them, Christmas greetings can bring wishes of joy and health and the good news of Jesus Christ to those we know and love. Christmas cards, postcards, e-mails and the like give us the opportunity to honor our intentions to “keep in touch” with an old friend or relative. They bring joy to those who receive them, not just because of a beautiful illustrations or inscriptions, but because they all say, in intent, “I thought about you this Christmas and wanted to share with you all the joy of Christmas that is in my heart.”
Do you send Christmas Greetings of any type during the holiday season? If you do why do you think it is an important practice? And what form do your Christmas Greetings take cards, postcards, e-mails, phone calls, personal visits etc. Please respond and comment with your views concerning Christmas Greetings? We would like to know what you think?