When Christmas Came by Postcard

Christmas at our house is over. The grandchildren have gone home. The presents under the tree are reduced to piles of crumpled paper and empty boxes. Leftovers promise quick and tasty meals for a day or two. But the nativity set remains to remind us of what it was all about, the tree still glitters, and a collection of antique Christmas postcards holds a place of honor on a wall.

I recently read a blog post that compared yesterday’s postcard to today’s Twitter post.

The first commercially manufactured postcards came to the United States in 1893. They were cheap back then, needing only a penny stamp, or a two-center later on. The pictures on the front could be romantic drawings or cartoons bearing their own message. Black and white photographs were eventually used, and still later, color photographs. There were postcards for Easter, for Valentine’s day, or every day. No one considered that their missives could someday be eagerly sought after by collectors.

Click to enlarge.

Instead of sending elaborate, expensive Christmas cards like we send today, many people sent their greetings via brightly-colored postcards like these. These were part of a shoebox full we found while readying Hank’s house for sale.

A well-loved card

Not really Christmas-y, but the message reminded people what was important during WWI.

 A vertical line divided the back with space on the larger half for the recipient’s address. The small half was meant for the sender’s message, which had to be very short, like a Twitter post.

Hank remembers that many of his country relatives did not have telephones when he was a boy. If they planned a Saturday trip to town for groceries, they might jot a postcard to his parents letting them know to expect company for supper.

More elaborate cards might be embossed, as was this 1911 one-cent card.

I’ve been a letter writer all my life. It started when my cousin Ruth and I learned to write. We lived a day’s drive apart and we sorely regretted not getting together very often. So we wrote postcards to each other, crowding as much of our 2nd and 3rd grade adventures into our miniature letters as we could. Our friendship grew, one penny postcard at a time, and lasted for a lifetime.

Christmas Questions

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign:  The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Emmanuel. Isaiah 7:14


Child of Mary and Joseph, on your Galilee housetop,
Searching the stars on a dark Nazareth night,
Did you know of the angels who sang on your birthday
And the shepherds and wise men who longed for your light?

Did those uncounted stars, like the sands of the ocean,
Stir slumbering memories of your Father’s vast scheme?
Did they hint to your youthful mind’s wonderings, dreamings
Of the uncounted souls you would someday redeem?

Oh Emmanuel, Jesus boy, thank you for coming.
Though our hurting world struggles and crumbles apart,
You bring hope to forgiven souls, joy to the grieving,
And Christmas still lives, ever new, in our hearts.

Poem © Joan Husby

Red Balloons and Christmas Balls

Don’t you love the harmonies God creates in life? He specializes in what people often call coincidences but are really connections that surprise us, make us think, let us glimpse him at work behind the scenes.

    Our last Northwest Christian Writer’s Association meeting seemed full of these delightful connections, as several speakers, none of whom knew what the others planned to talk about, zeroed in on the same ideas. The presenters approached their topics from different directions, with different emphases, yet the meeting had a cohesiveness that would have been hard to plan. Here’s an example:

    Monique led off the meeting with a talk entitled, “The Red Balloon.” She told about walking with her friend and a five-year-old who was carrying a bunch of colorful balloons. Suddenly the only red balloon escaped and floated away. “My red balloon!” the child wailed. In vain, her mother showed her she still had lots of pretty balloons. She sobbed, “But red is my favorite.”

    We’re frequently like that little girl, Monique pointed out. Though God gives us so much to enjoy, we focus on our “red balloons” and if we lose them, we grieve, never seeing the good things all around us.

    Next to speak was Leslie Ann, with a “rubbish writing” exercise to help authors overcome the dreaded “brain freeze”…caused not by cold ice cream, but by the freeze-up of the fluid words and ideas we depend on. She flashed a picture of a decorated Christmas tree on the screen and said, “Take the next three minutes to write what comes to mind as fast as you can.”

    What do you know? There in the center of the tree was one red ball, the only one among all the ornaments. I don’t know if anyone else made the same connection, but here’s what I wrote:

    “A red balloon in the center of the tree. Was this planned? No, it’s a Christmas ornament. Monique’s red balloon represented something loved and lost and took the place in the child’s mind of the much God had for her. The red ball might represent God’s treasure—the much (Jesus)—loved and given up by God for us. How we grieve when we don’t have God’s perspective. How much we miss.”

    Maybe that sounds like rubbish to you. But there’s a kernel of truth there—a connection that I can ponder and expand upon later. And in the exercise I gained a valuable technique for unfreezing my brain when I think I’m stuck.

    God loves to bring harmony out of rubbish. Telling about his work is the joy of the Christian writer.