by Father Mark Goldasich
Just a week to go until Christmas.
That’s what is now foremost on my mind. Well, actually, it’s not the main thing. What I’m feeling most right now is panic — pure and simple.
One of the activities that get me into the spirit of this Advent time of year is writing Christmas cards. And this year, I’m behind. Way behind. Way, way behind. Staring at me, crying for attention, are blank Christmas cards — stacks of them. Understand, I have all of the necessary components: beautiful cards in a variety of styles, Christmas postage stamps and labels, holy cards, even stickers to “gussy up” the outside of the envelopes. What I don’t have is time.
Across, on page 15, Michael Podrebarac has written about the “O Antiphons.” Actually, there’s one more antiphon that didn’t make the official list . . . and it’s my favorite, one that I pray often as the tasks increase and the days until Christmas decrease: “O, good Lord, no!”
The way that I write Christmas cards does take time. I feel guilty just signing my name and popping the card in the mail. (And I can’t even imagine having cards imprinted with my name, preaddressed and then sent from some outside source.) For me, Christmas cards are a way of connecting, of keeping in touch with family and friends, those valued people who have guided and supported and sometimes even challenged me on my life’s journey.
Cards are a way of saying that these people are being remembered in my thoughts and prayers. They’re a chance to express, in my own words, my wish to these special folks for a holy Christmas and a new year filled with God’s blessings. And it’s important for me to express those feelings by actually writing a note in the cards.
Cursive writing. Remember that? It’s something that’s going the way of vinyl records and the dinosaurs. I read the other day that 10 percent of elementary schools are not even teaching it anymore. Another study, done in 2007, found that 85 percent of high school students are now printing their SAT essays. Finally, due to a recent change, the only person who now signs the marriage license in the state of Kansas is the celebrant! Everything else is printed.
To me, that’s a shame. Don’t get me wrong; I love my technology. Heck, I’m writing this article on my computer. However, nothing beats a handwritten letter. Much like fingerprints, our handwriting is unique and says a lot about us beyond the words. Whenever I get a handwritten letter or note, it tells me that someone thought enough about me to spend time on me — to go out and get a card or note, write in it, buy the postage and take the finished product to the post office. More importantly, taking the time to think of something and then to write it down, in long hand, is a gift in itself, especially in this hurry-up, efficiency-minded world.
So, that’s why I’m still old-fashioned about sending out cards with a note inside. Because I shudder to send out a card with nothing in it, I usually include a holy card or a picture with my greetings. I also love to decorate the envelope as well with a sticker or two . . . or three. (I want to get my 44 cents worth, I guess.) About my only concession to technology are my printed return address and the recipients’ address labels, which do save some time.
Whether or not you normally write Christmas cards, I’m suggesting that you do at least one or two to someone special during this final week of Advent. Take your time with it, write your note by hand and pop in a little surprise gift. I’m certain that your card will stand out and be treasured by the person lucky enough to receive it.
If you’re looking for a New Year’s resolution, maybe starting a card-a-month practice would be just the ticket. You can either pick one person and write to them each month or pick a new person each month and drop a note to them. To motivate yourself, use some of that special stationery you’ve been saving for a “special occasion,” or buy yourself a new pen to be used only for note writing. Then send happy new year greetings in January, commemorate Valentine’s Day in February, St. Patrick’s Day in March, etc. Birthdays, get well or just “thinking of you” cards are always welcome.
And it’s fun to never let a card leave your hand without an enclosure: several lottery tickets, a schedule for a favorite sports team, a cartoon, a few stamps, an interesting newspaper article, some cash, a gift card, a sheet of silly stickers, confetti, etc.
Writing can truly be a form of prayer. It’s a way to give two of the most precious things we have — our time and ourselves — to another.
Let’s take a cue from the folks at Hallmark and only write a card to someone “when you care enough to send the very best” — of yourself.