Every year at Christmastime, we receive cards and letters from dear friends, family members, and people about whom I have to ask my wife, “How do we know these people again?” I’m sure you get them too. In the days before blogs and social media, cards and letters were how people kept up with each other, and the mailing of these things became somewhat obligatory around major holidays like Christmas. It’s a nice tradition, and I would argue that it’s still more fun to get something in the mail than it is to receive a push notification about someone else’s Facebook status. Yet there is also a darker side to this holiday custom: some people use it as an excuse to brag, and to do so quite shamelessly.
I figure it started innocently enough, with parents writing letters to grandparents telling them how much the kids had grown and what they were up to; but at some point, this sort of catching up turned toxic. Now people seem to think it okay to send letters which could reasonably be subtitled, “Christmas with the Perfects.” You know the kind of letter I mean: one which details Mr. Perfect’s business successes, each child’s athletic victories and extracurricular activities, and Mrs. Perfect’s ability to balance a million responsibilities while still finding time to knit sweaters for needy children in Outer Mongolia. Oh, and there’s usually a paragraph or two detailing the latest family vacation to Europe or Hawaii.
It’s not that there’s anything necessarily wrong with sharing good news or counting one’s blessings. I’ve read a few letters which manage to do that in an entertaining and heartwarming way. Unfortunately, the vast majority of Christmas letters simply read like an exaggerated résumé. They don’t give a real picture of the character of a family, but a carefully Photoshopped one in which every blemish has been removed. The net effect is to make people who are well aware of their own blemishes feel downright inferior.
Having read far too many “Christmas with the Perfects” letters, I’m determined never to write such a letter myself. Instead, I try to write a Christmas letter which reads more like a devotional than a yearly catalog of my family’s accomplishments. When I talk about my family, I try to give an honest glimpse into what life with the “Lang Gang” is really like. I would much rather share a funny story or two than boast about something we’ve done. After all, the best thing about my family is not the amount of time we spend atop some award podium, but the love we share and the Lord we serve. He’s the only “Perfect” worth bragging about—especially in a Christmas letter.