Thoughts, Ideas and Inspiration by Melissa Earley

What Christmas Cards Don’t Say

I received a Christmas card from a friend. The front of the Christmas card was loaded with photos of happy, smiling people living their Best Lives Now! The family update on the reverse was peppered with exclamation points, jolly news, and travel destinations in bold.

Then we had coffee.

Though we hadn’t talked for several months, we are close enough friends for honesty over steaming mugs. No surprise, the card only told the tip of the iceberg of her family’s life. There were travels and a family wedding. But there’ve also been family fights, job anxiety and loneliness.

I wondered about all of our image conscious cards. Why can’t we just put it all out there in our Christmas letters? Why not write, “This will be the last time you get a card from this address, we’re going into foreclosure,” or “As I blew out the candles on my birthday cake, I was pretty sure I’ve wasted my life,” or even, “I don’t really like my kids this year. I’m a pretty nice person. How did I raise this bunch of jerks?”

Why not? Because not everything is everyone’s business. Secrets are how we protect those tender places that aren’t read for public scrutiny. We all know that if we put our dirty laundry on the line, someone will point at it and say, “Ick. That’s really dirty.”

There is power in bearing witness to the complicated truth of our lives. When we tell someone else about our struggles, insecurities, and personal triumphs, we each get a little less lonely. When we can unfold the layers of lives before another person without covering a part with our thumb we create a holy text. I have found healing when I’ve shared my hurt places with someone else.

But it’s okay for Christmas cards to have only the updates that are okay for other people to talk about in the grocery store check-out line.

This year, when I open  cheery Christmas cards and read the enclosed brag letters, I’ll celebrate the joyous news. And I’ll pray for the very real people and all the complicated, difficult, messy stories they’re not yet telling.





  1. Norma Lee Kerns Barnhart

    We need more places where it is safe to be vulnerable and honest with who we really are, don’t we? When the camera is on us, we smile and say “cheese”, but smiles belie what is deep within. Great writing, Melissa.

    • admin

      I hope people can find that place in church, or at least some small section of the church.
      thanks for reading.

  2. Julie Boggess

    You eloquently wrote what I often think reading some of the Christmas letters I receive- “What’s the real story?” The full page single spaced letters are usually the most…ummm…entertaining😉

    • admin

      Thanks, Julie. I do think those novella length letters are fun. And know they don’t tell the whole story.

  3. Kathy T

    Great message, great writing! And so true. We all need to be happy with the dreams that come true.

    • admin

      thanks, Kathy.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

© 2024 Waking Up Earley

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑