We all acknowledge that Christmas is about consumerism in America. The idea is old*, yet most Americans still spend into debt for Christmas. This Christmas season, spending is up 58% amongst Americans. While not at the 2004 levels, when Americans were spending $1000 on Christmas, Americans are spending over $650 on Christmas this season.**
*Even Charles Schulz was hammering this home in 1965 with his classic A Charlie Brown Christmas.
People will say they buy all these holiday gifts and trinkets because it is what the season is all about. Really? This is what the wise men were doing? This is what Jesus had in mind? As Jules might say, “Well, allow me to retort.”
- Going into financial debt is not what Jesus had in mind.
- Being materialistic is not what Jesus had in mind.
- Giving gifts as a showcase of one’s self is not what the wise men had in mind.
- Worshipping the culture is not what either had in mind.
Christians can say they worship Jesus, but what are they giving their time and money to this season?*
*It’s why I think Black Friday is a true American national holiday. Look at the “worship” that happens that day. People lose their mind and will do anything for some item at a retail store. I heard plenty of “war stories” from people at church about the day.
This is not to say Jana and I don’t give gifts. We do. This past Friday night, we had a wonderful time finishing our Christmas shopping for the boys. I look forward to Christmas day when the boys can open their gifts and enjoy them.
Adding up everything we have spent on Christmas this year for the boys, each other, family and friends, we’re under $200.
I say this not to brag, because this has not always been the case. Over the years, I’ve wasted a lot of money on Christmas. I like the holiday, one of my love languages is giving, and I thought I was expected to buy and give gifts.*
*If my friendship with someone is determined by what Christmas gift I get them, we’re not really friends.
An example I’ve shared with people is Liam’s first Christmas. He was one month old. I was buying all sorts of toys, books, clothes, items for his room and more. How much of that stuff do we still have? Almost none. For instance, I had spent close to $100 on a brand new outfit from the Gap. He wore the outfit twice. Duncan never wore it because he was too big when winter came around his first year. I should have just lit a match and burned the money in front of Liam. He would have been more enamored with the flame than the outfit I bought him.
Why did I do it? I was carried away by the emotion of being a first-time dad, but being carried away like that had me neglecting my finances. In a single income family like ours, it was a poor choice. I’ve made many of them when it comes to Christmas. Of course, I’m paying for it later when I’m paying the credit card bill.*
*And those interest charges make those expenses all the more expensive.
It’s easy to get caught up in the spirit of the holidays. The true holiday spirit, consumerism. You ever get frustrated by gifts you didn’t get? I have in the past. Do you know how selfish that is? I cringe at some of my past actions and thoughts with gifts. “I can’t believe I didn’t get (fill-in-the-blank) from so-and-so!”
Really, I’m a sinner.
This past year, I’ve grown a lot in the area of finances. It’s something that has come out of the amount of expenses we had due to family health issues, car breakdowns and more. It’s also been a byproduct of examining aspects of my life after reading Tim Keller’s Counterfeit Gods. And, I was inspired by Joshua Becker’s talk on minimalism.
As this Christmas drew near, Jana and I talked about making a concerted effort to reign in our spending. Well, it was going to be me that needed to make the concerted effort. I love this time of year, but I want to be within reason. This is the best I’ve done with Christmas spending in twenty years.
I also want the boys to have a good example as to what Christmas is all about. I don’t want them to see us tell them one thing (Jesus), but have our actions say something else (consumerism). One thing we’ve been doing the past few Christmases is making sure we give “a Christmas gift to Jesus” and telling the boys about it. How? We make a donation to a non-profit, like Open Door Mission, and explain as best we can why we give. If I’m celebrating the birth of Jesus, I want to make sure I give gifts that honor Him. I want the boys to know giving gifts is fun, but it’s also good to give to those who are in need. We have it better that so many in the world, and I want them to be aware of that. Not that they should feel guilt, but rather understand their place.
I’ve talked to the boys about who we should give to. Liam is older, and we’ve talked about this more than Duncan and I, so he’s sensitive to other children who don’t have homes, food or toys. We’ll make a donation of some sort this week to a charity. It’ll push our Christmas expenses up, but well worth it.
This is a little bit of what I’m learning and going through. I hope you enjoy this holiday season, but I also hope you take time to reflect upon why we celebrate. If I may, I’d challenge you to give “a birthday gift to Jesus” by giving to a charity or helping out someone in need.
Thanks for reading.