those Christmas letters (from Simon Baynes)

Christmas letters – love them or loathe them?  
Here ACW member Simon Baynes gives his opinion:

December. The usual crop of printed letters from friends comes flopping through the letter box. “It seems as though Christmas comes around with greater speed every year…” begins one – and it is typical of many. I am surprised at their surprise. What is this mystery of time and the human mind?

As far as I know the Astronomer Royal has not decreed that in the twenty-first century the length of a second will be fractionally reduced each year. Greenwich stands as it has stood from the days of Charles II. Time neither flies not plods, but treads with even pace as it has done since the day when God said “Let there be light”.

As I get older I confess that these letters tend to become something of a burden to read. I find it hard to be  interested in my friends’ holidays in Dubrovnik or Katmandhu, their dogs and their cats, their house extensions, their sporting exploits, and their grandchildren, whom I have never met, all with their undoubted and entirely wonderful talents.

Their messages are written as if from behind an iron curtain, where one communiqué a year is the best they can hope for. It isn’t so – they’re just busy, but then we all are. The busyness of life has taken friends and family to far-flung places. How easy it would be for any of my friends to not write the Christmas letter. How easily we might be forgotten.

But we are not forgotten and – when I break through my own unnecessary cynicism – I realise I am very grateful. We get letters from home and abroad, from family and friends, and from mission partners around the world. We have letters from Newham and Cambodia, Lampeter and Albania, Kendal and Ghana, York and Senegal, Glasgow and Kenya, Romania and Japan. We are remembered.

“As cold waters to a thirsty soul, so is good news from a far country”, says the Book of Proverbs. And every letter at this time of year is a reminder of the best news of all: “the word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth”; and a reminder that in this year of grace two thousand and twelve, the Gospel writers’ own Christmas letters still reach us, still touch us and still move us with the knowledge that God remembers us. (And my New Year’s Resolution shall be to welcome the Christmas Letter.)


Simon Baynes is a long-time member of ACW, and has served two spells on the committee. He and his wife Caroline were mission partners with the church in Japan for 15 years. First published by Monarch, Simon has since self-published two novels, four collections of poetry, theological articles, hymns and prayers. His latest book is The New Self – the Character of a Christian.

Love letter writing? Don’t forget ACW’s national competition, deadline 31st December 2012.

2 thoughts on “those Christmas letters (from Simon Baynes)

  1. Perpetua says:

    I will admit both to sending and enjoying receiving the annual Christmas letter from friends and family. I have only met 3 bloggers so far, but that doesn’t stop me being interested in the lives and writings of the bloggers I read. I get a bit cheesed off with the kind of cynicism with which this post began, though he did redeem himself towards the end. 🙂 Surely in this world where so many are lonely and feel cut-off, any friendly communication, even just once a year at Christmas should be welcomed and valued.


    • Lucy Mills says:

      I too have a positive feeling about these letters, Perpetua. Sometimes they amuse me, but only because they reflect the character of the person writing them. I recognise them in it, and that makes me smile.


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