How do you say Merry Christmas to your family and friends? With pens or pixels? Does it matter?
If you sign a traditional card that comes out of a box with your actual hand using old-fashioned ink, bless you, for personally written cards and notes are increasingly rare and, therefore, precious. Perhaps you write a letter on your word processor, insert a picture or two from your digital camera and the only ink involved squirts onto paper from your printer. I truly enjoy your newsy letters. When time is short, which of course it always is, you might upload some photos into a pre-designed template and your glossy electronically signed Christmas cards miraculously arrive on your front porch a few days later. Sometimes a picture really is worth a thousand words, many hours, much paper and over-priced ink cartridges.
That is the short history of my Christmas card practices. I started to write a letter this year, in auto-pilot Christmas mode, until I realized that most of the letter’s intended recipients are in regular contact with me and my family either in person, via email , phone or on Facebook. Few need an update. Smiles and a simple Merry Christmas seem more appropriate.
The medium for Christmas greetings, like that of modern communication in general, is morphing from pens to pixels. Are digital Christmas greetings any less meaningful than those written with five flesh and blood digits?
How important is the medium to the message?
In my communications studies I frequently bumped into Marshall McLuhan’s aphorism, “The medium is the message.” For example, visual media does more than communicate a message differently from print media. It becomes the message itself. Amazingly, he wrote this in 1964, well before the pixel proliferation of recent years. An exploration of this idea is a subject for another day, but for today it applies to Christmas in one simple way.
There is earlier precedent for the idea of the medium as the message.
Christmas marks the birth of a baby, a Divine message of love and salvation embodied in the medium of a child. Jesus is the medium. Jesus is the message.
Before the birth of Jesus, God communicated with humans through chosen individuals, miraculous acts in history, and the voices of his prophets. He made his presence known with clouds, fire, thunder and gentle whispers. As a Holy God, he was necessarily distant from sinful people.
Until Jesus became the medium and the message. Jesus didn’t live to lead to God; he IS God. Jesus didn’t live to model a way of life for us; he IS the way. Jesus didn’t live to teach us truth; he IS the truth. Jesus didn’t live to show us salvation; he IS salvation.
Whether expressed with pens or pixels, the message of Christmas IS the One we celebrate.
“I am the way and the truth and the life.” John 14:6