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With the Christmas season quickly approaching, are we overflowing with joy and excitement for the pending celebration of the birth of our Savior? Or do we find ourselves engulfed by a cloud of anxiety as we deal with crowded stores, oversized family expectations and the inevitable arrival of the January credit card bill? According to the National Institute of Health, the Christmas season brings with it a high incidence of depression.
It’s no surprise then that one North American survey reported that 45% of respondents dreaded the season.
We live in a country swallowed up by an overwhelming cultural presence during the Christmas season. For many, instead of this presence being the Holy Spirit, it looks more like a giant GPS system manifesting itself as the “worldly culture of Christmas.” It points us in the direction of days known as Black Friday and Cyber Monday while taking ahold of our emotions, driving us to over-spend on the latest gadgets for family members. The tug of the culture asks us to “merge ahead” as we spend beyond our budgets at restaurants and grocery stores. Before we know it, January is here and “you have arrived at your destination” when that massive dollar amount appears on the credit card bill. In the aftermath of the celebration, the next several months are spent paying down the balance. For some, the debt just keeps growing and rolling over year after year, escalating into a burden that never seems to go away.
Now there’s nothing wrong with spending within our budgets during the Christmas season, but let’s ensure that our hearts are in the right place and heading in the right direction. If the fog of the culture has misdirected us, let’s “recalculate” and join forces to halt this omnipotent GPS system known as the “worldly culture of Christmas.” Here are four ways to let God’s word put us on the right path.
- Let us…Recognize that we live in a broken world. Let’s heed the advice of Paul in Romans 12:2: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (ESV). Around this time of year, the world “conforms” to a pattern of materialism, but God calls us to a higher standard. While the imperfect will of the world says to spend our way to happiness, the perfect will of God says we can find peace and joy in him that no amount of money could buy.
- Let us… Refocus our eyes on Him, not earthly treasures. In Matthew 6, Jesus instructs us, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth…but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal” (ESV). Let us redirect our route to those actions that will truly glorify Him.
- Let us…Focus on the reason we celebrate Christmas. Luke 1:32 proclaims, “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end” (ESV). Think about that – FOREVER. His kingdom will NEVER end. This is the heart of why we celebrate Christmas.
- Let us…Remember that we live a life redeemed that carries a responsibility. Jesus died for us once and for all to pay for our sins. In doing so, he gave us the greatest gift we can ever receive - eternal life. Not long after his death and resurrection, he instructs us in Matthew 28:18-20, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (ESV). Jesus died so that we may live eternally with him.
Let us respond to that gift this Christmas season and honor our Lord by setting our focus on him and seeking to obey his calling in how we manage our finances.
So if you feel a pang of anxiety within yourself as you pull into the mall parking lot, “recalculate” your destination and remember the birth of the One who died on the cross, rose from the dead and gave us the ultimate gift. Then, count your blessings before you swipe your card!
Have a thoughtful Christmas!