If your family is like mine, you love going to the mailbox during the Christmas season. It’s lots of fun to receive Christmas cards and letters from friends and family near and far. But if you’re family is really like my family, you know that behind each of those scenic backgrounds and perfect smiles on the Christmas card, there is a story.
Oftentimes, parents take lots of time to plan the perfect Christmas card by finding coordinating outfits, scouting the best location, cramming in last-minute haircuts, and booking the best photographer months in advance. And on the day of pictures, the scene is not always as perfect-looking as the picture on that card might show.
“Stop touching your sister!”
“Don’t wrinkle your dress!”
“No fake smiles!”
“I’ll buy you ice cream if you behave!”
“One more complaint and everyone is grounded!”
Wouldn’t it be funny if one year we all mailed out the real picture (like this one of my family) instead of the perfect one that doesn’t tell the whole story?
Either way, we love Christmas cards so much that more than one billion Christmas cards will be sent this holiday season. Many will include letters giving family updates, photos, and well wishes for the new year. Most of the time, these letters fit on one page and are easy and interesting to read. Every now and then, a letter arrives filled with every vacation moment, root canal, and family event from the past year. Those are usually scanned with a smile and tucked back inside the card.
But each card is a reminder that someone thought about you and wanted you on their list for Christmas. And with every smiling picture, we can laugh knowing that there is probably lots more to the story than the perfect picture shows. Christmas is an important time to think about our friends and family who make the holiday season so meaningful.
This Advent, we are going to look at Paul’s words in Philippians a little differently: as a Christmas letter.
Paul’s letter would have been received in Philippi with great excitement. The people in that city knew he had been taken to Rome, where he was living under house arrest. News of his letter would have spread quickly through the church, and people would have crowded together in a room to hear every word. His letter, like our Christmas cards, would have brought joy to those who loved him and couldn’t wait to hear how he was doing.
But, unlike most of the cards we will receive this year, Paul’s letter doesn’t make everything look perfect. He is honest in sharing the struggles in his life yet encourages us to keep up the good fight and partner with him in sharing Jesus.
Our prayer is that your family will go through this Advent devotional together, and we hope you will see Paul’s words as a Christmas letter to you. We know that Paul was inspired by God’s Holy Spirit as he wrote, but he could never have imagined we would be reading his words for the Advent season this year.
Take some time each day with your family to enter that room in Philippi and listen to Paul’s message for you this Christmas season. May his words bless your home and your holiday.