A Christmas Collage, on the 7th Day of Christmas
There are still in this year almost gone, 2019, Christmas and “Seasonal” cards arriving at our mailbox. Fewer than in the past, but they still come each year beginning either before Thanksgiving or just after. Understandably, many see the entire enterprise of such card sending and receiving as a waste of paper, stamps and time.
And it certainly can be that. Perhaps a “waste of time” is the wrong expression. When the card sending appears to me to be unfruitful, it is because while a minimal level of connection between us is made, that connection is thin at best. I see the names and even recent pictures of people I know and care about. But for me the fruit of card sending and receiving, is found in those small treasures of disclosure in which we open ourselves to each other. Which usually means more than an extensive list of the year’s accomplishments and successes and dares to convey something of our common human fragility. Surely all of those lives represented by those cards are not free from some degree of distress and anxiety in the face of our current mess. I wonder if we live in the same world, and how it is possible to report year after year that all is well with world, and Happy New Year. I wonder that, because I know that is NOT the case.
The card exchange may also be something rare and powerful, a life-giving connection otherwise not made or sustained. It is one that, so far, I attempt to nurture. Mine are almost always “late” according to the secular Christmas calendar by which Christmas is over by the evening of the 25th. However, the great advantage of the Christian calendar by which Christmas begins on the 25th and concludes on the 6th of January, the Feast of the Epiphany, a commemoration of the arrival of the Three Kings, sending our cards on the 5th or the 7th day is just fine. It could even be considered early.
This year, there was a very wide array of cards. Some arrive with a complete three-generation family history of the previous year, attached to pictures, etc. Some contain the hand-written name and very brief greeting from the sender, without any additional information. On others, there is nothing hand-written and no sign of life, happy or sad. Perhaps more importantly, there is no indication of concern for and interest in those beyond this small circle of family and friends.
The types of cards are also interesting and indicative of the wide range of how this season is experienced and celebrated among privileged peoples. Fewer and fewer of these greetings are Christmas cards, many are Season’s Greetings, and some contain no printed text at all, rather some simple image and a brief hand-written love note of friendship, gratitude, and wishes or blessings for the coming year.
I appreciate any card that arrives, and I send one in response. From the thirty or so cards that we received; I was especially moved by nine of them. In full disclosure, three of these are cards are not actually Christmas cards. Rather, one is a thank-you note, one a note of reconciliation, and one simply a hand-written greeting. Yet, this combination of images, texts, people, creatures, places, and events are now woven together into a collage that gives me hope and for which I am deeply grateful.
- A Cabin on a snowy beach, with the rising Sun, from friends who have dealt with challenges
- A Snowy Egret, from a note of reconciliation to repair a broken friendship
- An image of bare branches, no text on front, but a note of love on the back
- A Family Card of Peace with images from a safari in Africa last summer
- A Single red bird on a bright white textured background from a writer
- A photo of friends we’ve known since 1970, but hardly seen since
- A woman dancing in the snow from a friend who would like to dance in the snow
- An image of the Episcopal Cathedral in Portland with a long note inside from our 80+ year old friends bought in support of the Choir’s trip to the UK
These images, and those represented by some of the cards I did not include here, come from a very wide array of worldviews, lifestyles, locations, faiths, (probably politics, but I don’t actually dare ask), and ages. And, they all have one thing in common – we do not see each other often, if at all.
Something about this combination of images, texts and the way they are here together in one place, touching each other, as VERY different as they are, is powerful. It is a power of hope that comes from simply placing one thing next to the other, even if only in the imagination. All of this, the red bird from Ohio, the elephants in Africa, the bare branches of Winter, the Egret of Reconciliation, the Radiant Dawn greeting from the O Antiphons of Advent, the dwelling and dancing in the snow, sacred places and lives that seek PEACE and point out the Light that is among us who dwell in darkness.