From then, to now, to you: the Sedgwicks’ Christmas card

Luke's gospel, inscribed by Mum

Indeed, as the inscription in my mum’s neat handwriting says, Luke’s gospel does contain “The original Christmas story.” Which is why I’m sharing this story with you on this Christmas Eve.

A little while ago, a Queensborough-area friend gave me something very special that I have been waiting until this night, Christmas Eve, to share with you.

In the 1960s and ’70s, when I was a kid growing up here at the Manse, Christmas cards were a bigger deal than they are now. It seemed like everyone sent Christmas cards. And probably because my father, The Rev. Wendell Sedgwick, was the local United Church minister, our family was on practically everyone’s Christmas-card list; I remember the cards arriving in heaps. We kids used to love to look through all the colourful cards – displayed thanks to masking tape and thumbtacks around most of the Manse’s interior doorways – and to read the hand-written messages. It was a lovely, friendly tradition.

My family in turn sent out cards by the dozens, if not the hundreds, every year; somewhere kicking around the Manse here I have a copy of my parents’ list, circa 1968, of names of members of Dad’s churches‘ congregations and other local residents to whom cards were to be sent. The list just goes on and on and on, and brings back many memories of good people no longer with us. (And happily, some of the names on the list are still with us!)

Sometime in the early 1970s, however, Dad decided that our Christmas cards should be in a different form. And so for a few Christmases – probably four, since there are four gospels – we sent out small booklets produced by the Canadian Bible Society, each one containing one of the gospels in what was called “Today’s English Version.” (I don’t know a lot about different versions and translations of the Bible, save that the one I use most is the Revised Standard Version, and I find the cadences of the King James Bible as magnificent as the English language gets. “Today’s English Version,” later called the Good News Bible, was, I believe, an attempt to put it in “words that everyone could understand.” It was not the first or last such attempt, and while the goal is undoubtedly laudable, the poetry and beauty of the biblical language are generally tossed overboard in these editions. Anyway, it was the ’70s; what can I say?)

I have good childhood memories of helping my parents stuff and address the envelopes containing these little booklets. It was quite a project, let me tell you.

But it was all only a memory until that recent gift to which I referred at the top. The gift was two of those little Christmas booklets:

Good News gospels

My family’s Christmas cards in 1972 (Good News by a Man Named Luke) and 1974 (Good News by a Man Named Mark). What a gift to have these little booklets once again!

The “good news” by Luke had been sent by my family at Christmas 1972, and is, as you’ve seen from the photo at the top of this post, inscribed by my mum, Lorna Sedgwick, on behalf of the whole family. The copy of Mark’s gospel was sent at Christmas 1974, the final Christmas that my family lived here. And this one is inscribed in the hand of my late father:

Mark's gospel, inscribed by Dad

I expect you can now understand how much this gift – having once again those booklets sent out by my family all those Christmases ago – meant to me.

So this being Christmas Eve and all, and in the spirit of the original reason for those booklets being sent out to friends, neighbours and parishioners, I’d like to give you “the original Christmas Story,” as my mum put it, as it is written in Good News by a Man Named Luke. I’ve also included the rather cool modern (that is, 1970s modern) line drawings that are included in the little book, one showing people going to be enrolled (as the King James Version has it; here they are “registering themselves for the census”), and the other, quite delightful, showing the shepherds gazing up in wonder at the angels. If you too experience that sense of wonder and joy this Christmas, then the Christmas wish that my parents sent out from the Manse all those years ago will have been fulfilled.

The Original Christmas Story

At that time Emperor Augustus sent out an order for all the citizens of the Empire to register themselves for the census. When this first census took place, Quirinius was the governor of Syria. Everyone, then, went to register himself, each to his own town.

Going to Bethlehem to be enrolled, from Good News by a Man Named Luke

Joseph went from the town of Nazareth, in Galilee, to Judea, to the town named Bethlehem, where King David was born. Joseph went there because he himself was a descendant of David. He went to register himself with Mary, who was promised in marriage to him. She was pregnant, and while they were in Bethlehem, the time came for her to have her baby. She gave birth to her first son, wrapped him in cloths and laid him in a manger – there was no room for them to stay in the inn.

There were some shepherds in that part of the country who were spending the night in the fields, taking care of their flocks. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone over them. They were terribly afraid, but the angel said to them: “Don’t be afraid! For I am here with good news for you, which will bring great joy to all the people. This very night in David’s town your Saviour was born – Christ the Lord! This is what will prove it to you: you will find the baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Suddenly a great army of heaven’s angels appeared with the angel, singing praises to God:
“Glory to God in the highest heaven!
And peace on earth to men with whom he is pleased!”

The shepherds and the angels, Good News by a Man Named Luke

When the angels went away from them back into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, that the Lord has told us.” So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and saw the baby lying in the manger. When the shepherds saw him they told them what the angel had said about this child. All who heard it were filled with wonder at what the shepherds told them. Mary remembered all these things, and thought deeply about them. The shepherds went back, singing praises to God for all they had heard and seen; it had been just as the angel had told them.

8 thoughts on “From then, to now, to you: the Sedgwicks’ Christmas card

  1. still a great story. I love it in the King James version. That is the version that I narrated at Burris Public School Christmas concert at Christmas 1949. ( I think the story has been adapted for television since.) Merry Christmas morning…GnG

  2. Merry Christmas to you both!
    Yes, the cadence of the King James Version is magnificent, and I love the Psalms in it in particular, though I do prefer the New Revised Standard Version for reading and for greater accuracy as a result of better manuscripts than the early 17th century translators had available.
    Today’s English Version, or the Good News Bible, was initially done for persons for whom English was not their first language, and so there was an effort to use plain, everyday English pitched at not too high a level. While much nuance is lost in this translation, it has also been very popular, and it is the version with which I see many pre-teens and teenagers. While it might not be my personal choice, it does work for that age group, and that is a very good thing.

    • And to you both too, John! Funny, I knew as I was writing this post about the different English translations and versions of the Bible that you would be one reader who would really have lots of information on, and insight into, the subject. And I was right!

  3. John Young’s comment resonated. My husband Denis received a copy of the Good News Bible “on the occasion of his Citizenship Ceremony” in the 1970’s. The simpler language would have been important; he recalls being the only native English speaker in the happy crowd of new Canadians. Inside is stamped “We pray that God may bless you and those dear to you in the land which has become your home.” Sweet. I wonder if the Canadian Bible Society is still allowed to give this gift, in this earnestly pluralistic society we have become?
    I always loved the simple illustrations! The conversion of Saul is a personal favourite.

    • That’s a great story, Lindi (and Denis) – thank you do much for sharing! I totally agree with you about the illustrations. And I am indebted to John Young for explaining the background of the Good News Bible; its simple language makes perfect sense now. As for whether the Bible Society is still allowed to give out those Bibles to new Canadians – I’d be really surprised. How times have changed.

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