©Stacey Newman/Getty Images ©Stacey Newman/Getty Images

Dear Friends-Who-Sent-Christmas-Cards,

Thank you! Your manger scenes, magi, snowmen, and penguins decorate our kitchen walls. Your photos of vacations, pets, children, and grandchildren delight us. We have noted your address changes and read your annual updates aloud at dinner. We have wagered on whose card would arrive first this season (Mrs. Quade, you win again!), and whose would greet us long after the neighbors' Christmas trees lay in heaps on the curb. Your Christmas (and a few Chanukah) wishes brighten our home.

While I'm especially fond of the cards with personal, handwritten greetings, pre-printed photo cards are lovely, too. We hang every card in the kitchen where we're sure to appreciate them every day. In a few weeks, we will take them all down and arrange the photos you sent on a cheerful bulletin board in the hallway.

Doing this will remind me of funerals.

I've been to five funerals in the past six weeks, you see, and every one of them had splendid photo boards on display. Friends and families, despite their grief, assembled these collages of their deceased loved ones.

It might seem depressing to compare my collection of your grinning Christmas cards to funeral photo boards, but I'm feeling rather cheerful about it.  Instead of a hundred funeral-goers contemplating photos featuring just one person, my Christmas photo board allows me to contemplate a hundred of you, my family and friends.

Funeral photo boards honor a life that has withered. My Christmas photo board celebrates life in full bloom. Your Christmas cards, commemorating the birth of Christ, evoke hope, and faith, and love. Your greetings encourage me. You help me pray. And as I pass the bulletin board in the hallway every day this year, I will pray for you.

I will also strive to pray for the billions of people outside the frame of my little bulletin board. How consoling to know that God has a universal bulletin board contained in the Heart of Jesus. He remembers each of us there in his Heart, where he has written our names.

These scripture verses help me pray as I contemplate the tremendous family we are, brothers and sisters in Jesus:

Are not five sparrows sold for two small coins? Yet not one of them has escaped the notice of God. Even the hairs of your head have all been counted. Do not be afraid. You are worth more than many sparrows.

-Luke 12:6-7

You formed my inmost being;
you knit me in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, because I am wonderfully made;
wonderful are your works!
My very self you know.
My bones are not hidden from you,
When I was being made in secret,
fashioned in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw me unformed;
in your book all are written down;
my days were shaped, before one came to be.
How precious to me are your designs, O God;
how vast the sum of them!
Were I to count them, they would outnumber the sands;
when I complete them, still you are with me.

-Psalm 139:13-18

Blessed New Year!

©2016 Grace Mazza Urbanski