Saturday, November 22, 2008

Beyond Christmas Greeting Cards

I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand, and this is a distinguishing mark in every letter; this is the way I write. (2 Thessalonians 3:17 NAS)

Christmas Greeting Cards The custom of sending Christmas cards began in Britain around 1840 when the 'Uniform Penny Post' was first introduced to public postal deliveries. According to information1 from the Web, the Uniform Penny Post was a postal system used as a uniform rate of one penny to deliver standard letters of weight not exceeding half an ounce for any local post. Helped by the new railway system which enabled the public postal service in the 19th century, the Uniform Penny Post was how the prepaid postage stamp came to be established. Today, prepaid postage is still being used by many postal systems around the world.

Following the introduction of the Penny Post postal system, Sir Henry Cole, a wealthy British businessman and prominent innovator of the 1800s, in the summer of 1843 commissioned artist John Calcott Horsley, a London respected illustrator, to design a card for that year's Christmas. Sir Henry, who was also the person who modernized the British postal system, wanted an impressive card that he could proudly send to friends and professional acquaintances to wish them a merry Christmas. At that time, the word 'merry' was used as a spiritual word for 'blessed' as in ‘merry old England’ and that was how the first Christmas card was born.

Thirty years later, the idea of Christmas cards caught on with the Americans when Boston lithographer Louis Prang, a native of Germany, began publishing the cards in 1875 and earned the title 'father of the American Christmas card.' Today more than two billion Christmas cards are exchanged annually just within the United States, and Christmas is the number one card-selling holiday of the year.

Long before the idea of a Christmas card was even conceived, people were already exchanging handwritten holiday greetings, first in person, then via post, much like the way the Apostle Paul sent his greetings in his epistles (Philippians 4:21; 2 Thessalonians 3:17). Paul wrote the greetings with his own hand as a distinguishing mark in his letters, and such greetings had been a source of encouragement to many in building ties and relationships beyond the boundaries of different churches, cultures and geographical separators in and off festive seasons. Given such richness of blessings deriving from written words of greetings, we should therefore continue this tradition and not neglect reaching out to people through this mode of communication. Whether it is by snail mail greeting cards or online e-cards, let us not forget to greet each other, especially the ones whom we may not be able to meet up due to distance constraints, or who are faraway, overseas, or in another town.

This Christmas, let us rethink how we should rekindle our interest in sending out Christmas cards to greet and bless people. Do we know of a missionary who needs encouragement, or someone who needs cheering up, or a friend who needs the Lord? Remember, we can do our part in making this a special Christmas for them, and we can touch some hearts by simply adding a few words of our own to spice up the card with sincerity and truth to show we care. May God bless the sender and recipient of Christmas cards!

Dear Lord, help us in our haste not to forget the people You love, the missionaries, the pre-believers, our friends, colleagues and relatives. Teach us Lord to pen down meaningfully words of encouragement and care in adding these words to our Christmas cards. Do not let us take for granted what we can do through greeting cards in blessing each and everyone who receives the card, to let them know the special Someone who cares enough to come from heaven to earth to save us all.

1SOON Online Magazine; The Great Idea Finder; Wikipedia (Accessed on November 22, 2008).

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