I cannot believe that it’s Thanksgiving week and Christmas is coming in weeks. Most of the time, I feel more stressed than thankful at this time of year (unless you count how thankful I feel when it’s all over!). Have any advice about making Christmas more about Jesus’ birthday and less about a shop-til-you-drop time of year?!
Tis the Season for Stress
Christmas is my favorite season of the year! It is the largest birthday celebration on Earth and appropriately so! Yet, we have tragically moved from worshiping a child lying in a borrowed manger that first Christmas Day to the modern extravaganza marked by frenzied shopping. Just this week my wife and I noticed a mammoth inflatable of Santa and his twelve reindeer on sale at the home improvement store. For only $299, this “yard decoration” could practically hide your entire house from view. Is there any end to these needless expenses? I’ll step off my soapbox and get to your question…
Thanksgiving weekend marks the official launch of holiday shopping, with the average American planning on spending more than $800 this Christmas. It is appropriate to show our loved ones we care; but I’ll offer a few tips for doing so without unnecessary financial stress. This will help keep the season more about Christ’s love then Santa Claus.
Make a List: Make a list of people you plan to shop for and set a budget … and make that budget closed to re-negotiation! This will allow you to do some on-line comparison shopping before you ever step foot in the malls. Planning will save you time and money!
Jesus says count your costs: Luke 14:28, “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it?” Be honest about what you can afford. If you cannot afford to get the gifts you think your loved one desires, seek a meaningful alternative.
Make it by hand: Consider that you might make something more meaningful (and less expensively) than you can buy, and it can be a fun family tradition to bake or sew or craft or build things that show the true purpose of a gift – that show your love and concern for the people in your life. Even a handmade card can be a keepsake especially if you take the time to write something – a memory, a special verse, a prayer – that shows how important someone is to you and your family. Be like the Proverbs 31 woman! “She selects wool and flax and works with willing hands.”
Use technology: Christmas cards can be extremely expensive especially when you add in the price of mailing them. This year, you might want to send something electronically or even skip the letter altogether or make a little video you can share. Teenagers today have so many technical skills, this could be a fun project, and a more creative way to share your family’s adventures. This is also an excellent opportunity to talk with your children about the year your family has just experienced and consider how God has worked in your lives and how we hope to see Him in the year ahead. Christmas cards don’t have to be a burden, but can open the door to meaningful conversation with your family.
Take a teaching moment! Deuteronomy 11:19-21: “Teach (God’s words) to your children, talking about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, so that as long as the heavens are above the earth, your days and those of your children may be many in the land the Lord swore to give your fathers.” Set aside a time to read God’s Word and share the true Christmas story.
Invest in experiences, not stuff: Most of us have all the things we need, with a few exceptions. Have you considered a family trip as a gift (no wrapping paper required) or enrollment in a class to open new opportunities for your child? For example, Crown has developed an innovative program, Career Direct, for the student or professional asking themselves, what work best fits with my unique gifts and skills? In thinking about what people might enjoy and areas where they can grow, is there an experience – a mission trip, a painting or cooking class, some career development training – that could turn the new year into a new day? It could be the gift that keeps on giving.
Make an eternal investment: During the Christmas holidays, my family makes it a point to serve others so that we remember the reason for our celebration. We are so blessed that a loving God came to earth to die for our sins so that we can again be at peace with Him. He showed us what real servanthood is by giving of Himself. As a family, consider donating some of what you intended to spend to invest in the work of God on earth and to show your love for the least of these. Many wonderful organizations serve the needs of others to the glory of God, and this is a good time of year to sacrifice some of our spending money in honor of the sacrifice that Christ Jesus made for us. Giving Tuesday is set for Tuesday, November 29, to follow Black Friday, when the shopping season kicks into high gear. Pray about doing a little more to invest in the work of organizations that you value. Matthew 6:21 says, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
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