Americans will spend over $850 billion Christmas this year. Every individual citizen is expected to spend $1,000 for Christmas gifts. Yet, according to CNBC, a record high amount of people (11.5%) of Americans, aren’t buying any gifts this season due to economic troubles. However, wealthy consumers are planning to spend much more so that the total spent this Christmas will be up to 10% more than last year. In fact, higher-income households in the U.S. plan to spend 5-times that of lower-income households.
Speaking of Christmas shopping… at least 17 people have died while 125 have been seriously injured in Black Friday related shopping incidents since 2006. This year (2021), one person was shot at a Northeast Austin, Texas Walmart and 2 were killed in downtown East Chicago. What makes us really uncomfortable about stories like this is we can see ourselves in them. We can get angry or anxious over getting the right presents before anyone else. Our patience can get thin. While we’d like to think we’d never be capable of such terrible things, the fact is we sometimes have the same frame of mind. We’ve fallen prey to the temptation of greed and consumerism.
I encourage you to spend less at Christmas and avoid the stress, guilt, regret and debt of over-spending. One of the mistaken impressions about Christmas is that it is all about the gifts. We would never say it, but many of us gauge Christmas by how many gifts we give or receive or their value – received or given. Gift giving is a wonderful aspect of Christmas. In fact, the first Christmas involved some gift giving. We need to rehearse that first Christmas.
Most people don’t ‘get Christmas’. In Matthew 2, three wise kings “got it” and one king didn’t. You can read their story in Matthew 2:1-18.
King Herod didn’t get Christmas:
- Interested in appearances. Herod was a ruler who built a lot of palaces and impressive structures: fountains, gardens, sculptures, forts. His motive was not to make society better but to impress others. Herod couldn’t stand people noticing another king more than himself.
- Interested in self-preservation.Herod was known for killing anyone and everyone who might be a threat to him, even family members. So you can imagine how he felt about this “baby king”.
- Interested in self-rule.Herod was king and he didn’t want a rival. He even brought in religious leaders to discover where Jesus was so he could get rid of him. He would be the king and no other.
- Interested in gifts.All this selfishness points to the fact that he wanted everything for himself – wealth, power, influence, everything. He even tried to steal the greatest gift given to mankind – Jesus.
Think about your life. Are you interested in keeping up appearances? Are you worried about self-preservation at the expense of others? Who’s on the throne of your heart? Would you rather keep all your gifts to yourself or share them with others?
The good news is that in contrast with Herod’s attitude toward Christmas, we have three wise men.
The Wise Men got Christmas:
- Instead of appearances, the wise men were interested in authenticity.These men saw something different in the night sky and decided to investigate. Something was happening and they wanted to be part of it. They were not impressed with Herod’s royalty. They wanted to meet the real king. It didn’t matter that the home was a simple carpenter. They were happy with a simple Christmas. As long as they had Jesus, it was Christmas to them.
- Instead of self-preservation, the wise men were interested in self-sacrifice.Think about what it cost them to find Jesus. The journey to the unknown, the threat of Herod, the gifts. They were willing to sacrifice much to discover the true meaning of Christmas.
- Instead of self-rule, the wise men were interested in obedience to God.It is highly possible that the reason they began their journey was a prophecy in the book of Daniel. They obeyed what little Scripture they knew. But for sure they finished their journey in obedience to Micah’s prophecy about Jesus’ birthplace. They even obeyed God’s direction from their dream. Instead of doing what they thought was best, they simply obeyed what God told them.
- Instead of hoarding gifts, the wise men were interested in giving gifts.They gave their time, talents, and treasure. They held nothing back. They gave more than just gold and perfume. They gave themselves.
So, let’s finish with a few practical lessons based on how many of us spend money at Christmas:
- Materialism. When was the last time you bought something for yourself because you saw someone else had it? Do you find yourself feeling like you have to buy someone a certain, expensive gift just to pleas them? That’s materialism.
- Entertainment. Are you the type of person that has to have the latest and greatest to make you happy? When our desire to play video games or get on the computer or TV take priority over our relationship with God or our family, we’ve got a problem.
- Convenience. Have you ever bought something just because you felt like you deserved it. You really didn’t need it, but you had the money, or didn’t, and got it Sometimes we are more concerned with doing what we want to do than doing what is right.
- Consumerism. Have you ever found yourself getting something just because you feel like you have to? You don’t need it, or they don’t need it, but it’s just too good to pass up. With credit cards, we don’t even need the money to buy it right away.
There is a better way to live your life – a better way to do Christmas. While many are interested in temporary issues and interests of life, God wants us to focus on the eternal. Things haven’t changed much since the wise men visited Jesus. This Christmas let’s approach with authenticity, self-sacrifice, obedience to God, and giving gifts.
Do you want Christmas to be different? It can be. Rather than obsessed with appearances, self-preservation, self-rule and hoarding gifts, put Jesus first in your life. Invite Him to rule your life and follow Him. Worship fully, spend less, give more, and love all.