When You Can't Afford Christmas
“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights.” James 1:17a (ESV)
Several months ago, I sat down with my older children to warn them this Christmas would have to be a little different. I knew it wasn’t going to be surprising news, but their responses blessed my heart.
When there’s more month than money in the checking account, life is stressful enough. But when December rolls around, and holiday gift shopping takes center stage, the unwelcome gifts of stress and anxiety can stack up in our hearts and minds.
This year instead of asking my children what they wanted for Christmas, I broke the news that the quantity of gifts would pale in comparison to years past. Instead of my usual mantra of “I shouldn’t” spend too much money on Christmas, I found myself saying “I literally can’t.” But rather than appearing upset, their eyes lit up with love. They were understanding and compassionate, with each one firmly claiming they really didn’t need anything anyway.
Although they surely felt a secret twinge of disappointment, they understand I’m now a single mom who just can’t do Christmas the way we used to. Their hearts echoed mine in believing that quality time, traditions and togetherness far outweighed the importance of tangible store-bought gifts. And their gifts of compassion, support and unconditional love were more priceless to me than anything they could have purchased from a store.
Gifts from the heart are the most important gifts we can give during this season, but all too often we forget that truth in the midst of all the holiday commercialization. We cave into the pressure of buying more and more, even if it means piling up debt. But if we change our perspective about gift-giving, our holiday can change, too.
In the beginning of James 1, James, the brother of Jesus, encourages God’s people to pursue a life pleasing to Him. He encourages them not to be tempted by sin or discontentment, but to focus on the Giver of all their blessings. He then says in today’s key verse, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights,” (James 1:17a). This is intended to pull our attention away from the gifts the world views as valuable and draw our attention to the priceless gifts we receive from heaven, which only the Father can give.
According to the words James penned, gifts from God are “good,” meaning morally excellent, of great benefit and never losing value; and “perfect,” meaning complete and without flaw. No earthly gifts can compare to this standard. James references gifts like salvation, grace, compassion, love, provision, peace, mercy and eternal life. Gifts like His unwavering presence, His time, His listening ear and His unconditional love. These are gifts that positively impact us every single day.
These intangible gifts — which enrich our lives in heart, soul and spirit — are the best gifts we can give to those important people in our lives. They’re rarely forgotten and hopefully never taken for granted.
My kids likely don’t remember what gifts I bought them last Christmas or the ones prior — despite all the time, love and money I put into shopping for those gifts. Honestly, I don’t even remember them myself. But what we do remember is all the times spent together, traditions we shared, the love we felt and the memories we made.
I can’t really afford Christmas this year, and maybe you can’t either. And sweet friend, that’s OK. Tangible gifts don’t make Christmas great — love does. And we can always afford to spend quality time with the most important people in our lives, creating memories and experiences, making them feel more loved and treasured than any store-bought gift ever could.
When we focus on the good and perfect gifts God has given us and share them with others, it won’t matter how many gifts are under the tree.
Dear Lord, help me not to feel guilty if I can’t afford a lot of gifts for those I love. Enable me to remember it’s the intangible gifts I give that my children, family and friends will most remember and value. Help us focus on the birth of Christ, the best Gift we will ever receive. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Isaiah 9:6, “For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (NLT)
It’s hard not to let financial stress, gift-giving and holiday hustle and bustle steal our peace. Tracie Miles’ book, Stressed-Less Living: Finding God’s Peace in Your Chaotic World, might be just what you need to hang onto peace this Christmas.
Visit Tracie’s blog for tips on maintaining your peace this holiday season and for some great budget-friendly gift ideas — and enter to win a special holiday gift pack including all three of Tracie’s books and other items.
REFLECT AND RESPOND:
Have you let stress over the expense of material gift-giving steal your Christmas joy and peace?
What gifts can you give this Christmas that don’t include spending money? Think of experiences and memory-making opportunities you can do with your loved ones that they’ll remember for years, and then work on making those happen.
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