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Guest column | Jack Bray

Being bold about beliefs at Christmas

As Christmas draws near, sending Christmas cards is the next project on our to-do list.

Of the 27 cards I received last year, all from Christian friends, only 11 even remotely concerned the birth of Christ. Fewer than half. Disgraceful.

While disappointing to me, it's also no surprise, since the custom of sending cards at Christmas began with non-religious "holiday" cards, originating in England more than 150 years ago.

The founder of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, Sir Henry Cole, had so many Christmas greetings to send that he could not write them all by hand. So in 1843, he hired London artist John Calcott Horsley to paint a card showing poor people being fed and clothed. "A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to You" was the message on that first card.

In the United States, the first line of Christmas cards was printed in 1875 by Louis Prang, a German immigrant. His cards first showed flowers and birds, but later began to feature snowy landscapes, glowing fireplaces and children with their toys.

Maybe you think I'm being too narrow-minded. After all, my Christian friends did think of me at Christmas and took the time to shop for a card, pick one out, buy it, write a short note within, address it, stamp it and mail it. But given all that thought, why send a "Season's Greetings"?

Why don't all Christians send only religious cards? We express our love for a favorite sports team or college by wearing T-shirts with those names. Some of us even paint our faces and scream maniacally at events. We advocate for groups and politicians with banners, badges and signs on our lawns at election time.

So why do so many Christians get shy when they have a chance to publicly proclaim their faith by sending Christmas cards that celebrate Christ's birth?

I don't think it's just the lack of thought in the rush to get the chore finished. I am convinced that, in most cases, it is a conscious effort to avoid looking too holy or too pious.

The card is a baring of our religious beliefs. It's very personal and, I think, scares people. They'd rather put their faith anonymously on a bumper sticker.

Moreover, some of us are afraid to offend our non-Christian friends. Nonsense. It's our celebration of Christ's birth. We should be proud to proclaim this wondrous event.

It's not bad enough that we've taken Christ out of Christmas by too much frantic shopping for gifts, it's worse now that we seemingly have taken him off our Christmas cards. I can only hope that this year, the cards I receive are those that celebrate the anniversary of Christ's birth.

May his peace be with you at Christmas and always.

Jack Bray, a retired broadcasting executive, is a former resident of Dunedin who now lives in Alabama.

Being bold about beliefs at Christmas 12/16/08 [Last modified: Monday, December 22, 2008 4:20pm]
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