I stopped by the office of a work colleague this week to wish her a happy new year. Almost immediately, her conversation turned to Christmas cards. She was particularly roiled by the multitude of greetings she had received from friends whose cards displayed only pictures of their children and grandchildren assembled before a fireplace, on a beach, at a wedding, trekking in Cambodia.... You know what I mean.
"Almost all the cards we received this year had family photos on the front." She was sputtering, that's the only way I can describe it. "People have forgotten what Christmas is about." Later, she emailed me her numbers: 84 cards showed off kids and/or grandkids. Ten offered salutations such as "Joy" or "Peace," or riffed on Santa.
"And three," she wrote, "that is, three -- had a Jesus or a Mary or the Magi. So: three of 94 had a religious picture. OMG..."
My friend, a highly regarded Washington professional, is no born-again Christian. But she does attend church services from time to time and, respects many faith traditions, including Christmas.
Like lots of us, she has watched Christmas become less a time to remember one particular child who, born into poverty in an arid land, grew up to become a significant prophet known worldwide, and more an opportunity to brag about the very small neighborhood of our gorgeous, accomplished children, grandchildren, and floppy-eared spaniels (or whatever).
Our daughter made partner in her law firm! Our son just opened his third car dealership! And our grandchildren -- with all the piano recitals, soccer championships and deans' lists? We just had to adorn our card with their faces.
Don't misunderstand me. I, like my colleague, enjoy receiving newsy updates from friends and family. I post the accompanying photos on my fridge. But when these paeans to personal success replace the shepherd's son whose arrival gave birth to Christianity and Christmas, something's wrong.
So please, next year, put your family news and photos in a letter, and tuck the letter into a card that's truly about Christmas.