Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The final post about our Christmas cards: Which Bible verse is the most Christmassy?

Having done my annual audit, posted 10 of my favourite cards and then done a second, longer, post about who sends what kind of card, this, I promise is the last post on my blog about Christmas cards.

In my previous post about them I logged the kind of messages that appear on the front of the cards, including Bible verses. This then got me thinking about Bible verses that are used on Christmas cards, generally and I began to wonder what would be the most popular. I also realised there were no religious designs in the Christmas cards I posted before. so I have rectified this and included some designs in this post...

I really liked this one

I expected the early chapters of Matthew and Luke to feature heavily, as these are where the nativity stories appear in the gospels. The 'story' most people know from school plays and Christmas church services is actually a mish-mash of the two nativity stories in Matthew and Luke, which are actually very different to each other. On freelance theology I've written how the reason they are so different is because they aren't historical stories, but theological stories instead - they are written to make certain points about Jesus. [Read the article here.] I think that's probably why the stories are so different.

Dozing donkey and curious sheep

Given that the wise men / kings / astrologers / magicians appear in Matthew's story and not Luke's, while the shepherds feature in Luke's story and not Matthew's, and that we had 11 cards featuring the three kings and absolutely zero cards featuring the shepherds, I thought we were much more likely to see verses from Matthew appearing on the cards. Turns out, I was wrong.

In total we had 10 cards featuring Bible verses, which is about ten per cent of all the cards we were sent (working from a sample of 103).

The verses featured were, as follows:

Psalm 139.11-12
If I say, ‘Surely the darkness will hide me
    and the light become night around me,’
    even the darkness will not be dark to you;
    the night will shine like the day,
    for darkness is as light to you.

(I have no idea why that is considered Christmassy, but there you go. Strangely, this appeared on a card featuring an owl, and wasn't religious-looking at all. Although, I guess owls are birds of pray, har har har.)

This is the 'owl' card with a Bible verse in

Isaiah 9.6
For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given,
    and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
    Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

(An Old Testament prophecy that Christians believe is about Jesus.)

Matthew 2.11
On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshipped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

(This is part of the story of the three wise men, or 'three kings'. It was on one of the cards featuring the three wise men, but only one.)

One of the Kings was ginger...

Luke 2.4-5
So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.

(As heard in every school nativity play, ever.)

John 1.9
The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.

(Fun fact: the Gospel of John doesn't have any nativity stories. But it does have a "Prologue", which is probably the most linguistically sophisticated, theologically complicated and semi-mystical part of the whole New Testament. It may also be borrowed from pre-existing Gnostic traditions; it certainly draws on them.)

1 John 1.5b
God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.

(1 John is a short book towards the end of the New Testament that is traditionally ascribed to the same author as the Gospel of John. It's actually a letter, or 'epistle', sent to a Christian community by someone in authority. It shares a lot of common language with the gospel, including using the word 'light' a lot. The 'b' in the Bible reference indicates they only used the second half of the verse.)

More inquisitive sheep

And the most common Bible verse on Christmas cards, appearing on four of them waaaaaaas (drumroll...)

Luke 2.11
Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.

Although two of these were printed in ye olde worlde King James Version:
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

And one of the cards quoted verse 10 as well, but then edited both verses to come up with their own version, really:
Great tidings of great joy which will be to all people!. For there is born... a Saviour who is Christ, the Lord.

Meh, close enough.

This verse even appeared on one card in English and Welsh (where Luke is Luc):
Ganwyd i chwi heddiw yn nhref Dafydd, Waredwr, yr hwn yw'r Meseia, yr Argkwydd.

So, there you go, Luke 2.11 is apparently the most Christmassy Bible verse in the whole Bible. At least according to the people who make Christmas cards.

Previous posts

Annual audits: 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012

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