Ever since secondary school, I would write cards every Christmas.

It began as a personal initiative where I would dedicate time and resources to decorate and write cards for friends and those who have made an impact in my life that year. 

As someone whose love language is words of affirmation, writing Christmas cards is a way for me to extend my gratitude and bless others with them.

Yet such a simple tradition has the power to reveal spiritual lessons.

The first few years I did it, I thoroughly enjoyed the process of writing meaningful messages and making the cards as aesthetic as possible.

In those moments, I was not writing to receive something in return, but simply to show how much they meant to me. The appreciative reactions I got only topped it off and made me feel heartened that I was able to be a blessing to the people around me. 

In the following years, however, I found myself becoming disgruntled with the process, as there would be days I needed to stay up late to finish decorating and writing the cards. Moreover, there were some people I wrote cards for, hoping to make a good impression on them.

While there were some I wanted to bless with my cards, I would end up writing for others whom I had little intention of writing for.

What added to my frustrations was the difficulty of deciding who to write cards for.

While there were some I wanted to bless with my cards, I would end up writing for others whom I had little intention of writing for. I did so out of fear that they would be disappointed if they had not received a card from me, or think that I was being exclusive.

COVID-19, however, helped me to rethink my friendships and who I wanted to go out of the way to bless with my cards.

Before the pandemic, the number of cards I would write each year would add up to at least 50, the majority going to church mates.

But since we were unable to gather for our usual Christmas and year-end church services last year, I had more time and space to think about the people who were dear to me. I wrote far fewer cards and even took the effort to mail it to friends both in and outside of church.

Looking back, I realised that my people-pleasing tendencies led me to make unwise decisions.

By being fearful of perceptions that others might have, I made unwise decisions to write cards for them anyway. It stretched my limits, and some of the cards I wrote in a rush were filled with half-hearted wishes.

As I looked into what the Bible says about people-pleasing, I found that Paul wrote to the early Christians in Galatia that his goal of preaching the gospel was to be “a servant of Christ” and not to please man. He also said reminded the believers in Colossae that all they do should be done heartily “for the Lord and not for men”.

For me, it means that I should not be driven by fears of misperceptions or any agenda other than a desire to love God and love my neighbours (Matthew 22:36-40) in my card writing.

It does not mean I should withhold my gratitude from others. Rather, for each person I am writing to, it should come from a sincere and intentional heart that seeks to bless others and extend God’s love to them through my words and gestures.

We may even become overwhelmed to the point we forget the true reason we celebrate Christmas…

It is easy to get caught up with the doing this season. Whether it be writing cards, preparing food for Christmas gatherings or socialising with friends, there are always things to do.

We may even become overwhelmed to the point we forget the true reason we celebrate Christmas — to rejoice over the coming of Jesus Christ our Saviour.

Remember the story of Martha and Mary? Martha was busy in preparation for Jesus’ visit while Mary sat at Jesus’ feet and listened to His teachings (Luke 10:38-42). Martha was so preoccupied with the work she missed out on what was far more important ─ spending time with Jesus and listening to him.

Likewise, the right focus of Christmas can be lost amid the busyness of Christmas. While these are not bad things in and of themselves, we must be careful not to let these festivities and traditions distract us.

We celebrate not because of presents. We celebrate because Christ came 2,000 years ago to die on the Cross, so that our broken relationship with God would be restored and we would be received into His kingdom.

If you feel like you have not had a satisfying and God-centred Christmas over the last few years, I implore you to make a change this season.

It doesn’t just have to be about struggling with people-pleasing, feeling swamped with plans or being too enticed by the commercialisation of Christmas.

For those of us who have been distracted by anything other than the remembrance of God and His love for us, let us re-align and be refreshed by the significance of God’s precious gift to us in the form of His Son to atone for our sins.

May we use this season to pause and reflect on what our focus for Christmas really is. You never know what God might reveal to you.

Wishing everyone a Blessed Christmas!

  1. What do you usually do during Christmastime?
  2. Have you reflected on your motivations, and whether these things bring you closer to God or farther away from Him?
  3. When was the last time you paused to re-align and allowed yourself to be refreshed by Him?