The first Christmas card shows a Victorian family celebrating the gentle spirit of the season around a table. They are making a toast to the health and happiness of their family, friends and nation. Flanking the scene of Christmas cheer and celebration is the carrying out of the biblical concern for "clothing the naked" and "feeding the hungry."
The first Christmas card did not set too well with most folk. It contained too much revelry. And the reminder of benevolence was too graphic and hard-hitting.
Christmas cheer is not a frothy, frilly emotion. A glance at this week's gospel text reminds us that John the Baptist's message was hardly music to the ears. John's denouncement of the crowd as a "brood of vipers" is not a customary Christmas greeting. Yet its very harshness forces us to re-examine the nature of "advent." It is grounded in the "good news" of Christ's coming.