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When December rolls around, I enjoy opening the mailbox to find Christmas cards instead of the usual fliers and bills. In fact, I look forward to it every day. Whether it is just a picture or, even better, a picture and a long newsletter, I love opening the mail in December.

I love a good Christmas card picture too. In fact, I marvel at the professionalism of most of these Christmas card pictures. How photographers manage to get kids and often pets to be still and smile all at the same moment is a mystery to me. Some of them even manage to do all this in front of sunsets. What a feat of engineering! Of course, I also love the rare funny picture, whether intended or not. The Christmas letters are a treat as well. There are typically lots of exclamation points! So many exciting things! So many children who love Legos! And school! And reading! And parents who enjoy trips! And milestones! And the grandchildren keeping us busy! 

While some Christmas letters may sound like a bragging list of accomplishments, and others forcibly cheerful while glossing over life’s difficulties, I find that most Christmas letters are wonderful reflections on the year. A friend told me that a family member kept all of her Grandma’s annual Christmas letters in a binder. What a historical treasure trove of family narratives! Of course most of us make choices about what to include and not include in a Christmas letter. Some avoid letters altogether because a reflection is too painful. But for many, the Christmas letter reflects a sense of gratitude for God’s grace and love. It is a momentous task to reflect on a year and to choose the events and people that make a year memorable.

Reading Advent devotionals this year after dinner, there are many ways to interpret the meaning of Advent and Christ’s birth.  But my favorite response to the joy of the incarnation is captured in Mary’s words. I do not know much about this young woman or what it was like to be pregnant with God’s Son or to be Jesus’ mother, but I marvel at her maturity in accepting and rejoicing in God’s good news.

Luke 1:38; 46-55
“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.

And Mary said:
“My soul glorifies the Lord
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
holy is his name.
His mercy extends to those who fear him,
from generation to generation.
He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
remembering to be merciful
to Abraham and his descendants forever,
just as he promised our ancestors.”

Mary’s words are the best Christmas letter I’ve ever read – a humble and joyful reflection of God’s incarnation.

Though a picture would have been nice.

Rebecca Koerselman

Rebecca Koerselman teaches history at Northwestern College in Orange City, IA.

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