God the Father’s Christmas Letters
God the Father sent us – his wayward, sinful, and naughty children – his own series of Father Christmas Letters.
Christmas is a time for storytelling. Sometimes it’s the simple pleasure of turning on your favorite Christmas movie and watching Kevin McCallister set his inventive booby traps or quoting endless lines of Chevy Chase’s Christmas Vacation. Other times it’s the quiet delight of sitting down with a good story like Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol. Whatever it may be, Christmas is a time for storytelling.
One of my favorite Christmas books is J.R.R. Tolkien’s Letters from Father Christmas. When you read these letters, you get a glimpse of another side of Tolkien’s life. You certainly see Tolkien’s creative, imaginative writing at work. But in his Letters from Father Christmas, we discover that Tolkien was more than a gifted fantasy writer; he was also a loving father. In fact, before any of his stories were read by fans who loved hobbits and wizards and adventures; even before his friends read some of his creative writing, Tolkien’s children were the first audience of their father’s stories. Tolkien knew that Christmas was a time for storytelling.
Over the course of roughly twenty years, Tolkien wrote Christmas stories for his children in the form of letters. Addressed to his children – John, Michael, Christopher, and Priscilla - these letters were signed from Father Christmas. He would leave his letters in creative and various places around the home and occasionally in the mail with a special hand-painted North Pole postage stamp.
Within these letters, Tolkien would regale his children with news from the North Pole, filled with the narrations and blundering adventures of the lovable yet bumbling Polar Bear, affectionately known in the letters as Karhu, or P.B. for short. Elves, goblins, and red gnomes make several appearances. And many of the letters also include Tolkien’s carefully and meticulously crafted artwork, handwriting, and sketches of life in the North Pole.
In Tolkien’s Letters from Father Christmas, you will find delightful stories of childhood and fantasy. You’ll read charming prose recounting imaginative adventures. You’ll witness Tolkien’s love of words and sub-creating, as he called the work of writing and imagination. Reading Tolkien’s letters feels like being invited, at least for a short time, into Tolkien’s home and sitting at his feet to hear a good Christmas story. The reader gets a front-row seat to witness his love for writing stories, especially for his children, which fills every letter and illustration on every page. But you’ll also find something more. Above all, Tolkien’s Letters from Father Christmas reveal the heart of a loving father for his beloved children.
This is the very same thing our yearly celebration of Christmas brings and reveals for us because the birth of our Lord Jesus reveals the heart of our gracious and loving Heavenly Father for us, his beloved children. God the Father sent us – his wayward, sinful, and naughty children – his own series of Father Christmas Letters. This is what God has been doing all along throughout history. We’ve received Christmas letters for centuries, ever since he sent the very first one in Genesis 3.
“I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel” (Gen. 3:15).
Years later, our Lord sent his Christmas letter to Abraham and all nations:
“And he brought him outside and said, ‘Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.’ Then he said to him, ‘So shall your offspring be.’ And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness” (Gen. 15:5-6).
In Deuteronomy 18, God sent a Christmas letter to Moses promising to send a prophet greater than he, the very Word made flesh. In 2 Samuel 7, the Lord sent his Christmas letter again to David, promising to send the gift of a king who would reign on the throne of David forever, the King of kings, Jesus.
Year after year, down through the prophets, the Lord continued to send his Christmas letters promising to send his righteous branch, the root of Jesse, Emmanuel, God with us. Until finally, the day arrived when God the Father did not send his Christmas letter through a prophet like Isaiah or John. This time, in the fullness of time, the Father would send his own Son, the Word made flesh. And there in Bethlehem, something old and new happened all at once. Something old because in many and various ways God spoke to his people of old, appeared to them even in the glory of the Lord, the word of the Lord, the messenger of the Lord. But also something new, for now, in these last days, he has spoken to us in his Son. The Author of life was born into his own story. The Lord of all creation became a creature.
The Christmas story reveals the heart of our loving Heavenly Father for us, his beloved children.
God the Father revealed his heart for us in sending his only begotten Son to be born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem us who were under the law. The story of God’s love is revealed as Jesus is born for us in the manger so he could learn to crawl, walk, and talk his way from Bethlehem to Jerusalem where he would reveal the Father’s love yet again. Not in that lowly manger, but on that humble cross, the Lord would post his greatest Christmas letter of all, Jesus crucified for you. “Mild he lays his glory by, born that man no more may die. Born to raise the sons of earth, born to give them second birth.” All this he does only out of Fatherly Christmas, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me.
Of all the Christmas stories, this is the greatest one, because it is both true and delightful. The Christmas story reveals the heart of our loving Heavenly Father for us, his beloved children. And that heart is a heart that overflows with steadfast love for you.
This was Tolkien’s hope and consolation, and it is ours as well. For the birth of Christ is the eucatastrophe of man’s history. And the resurrection is the eucatastrophe of the incarnation. This Christmas story begins and ends in joy in Jesus, for you. Christmas, indeed, is for storytelling.