It's only 22 days until Christmas. A mere 3 1/2 weeks left to get the Christmas spirit. If you haven't lost your job and your 401K is secure, you may already be singing Christmas carols and laughing at fruit cake jokes.
But....if the future look bleak, you may feel like the Grinch. You may even be wishing that by some miracle Christmas could be cancelled this year. Not that you don't believe in Jesus or that you are a scrooge...it's just that life is tough right now and trying to be merry with a heavy heart isn't easy.
It's especially difficult if there are little cherub faces looking to you for some type of surprise on Christmas morning. How did our ancestors do it? How did they get through the great depression without going crazy?
It's all in the attitude. But how??? How can you take an overindulgent attitude and change it to one that's content with receiving a candy cane? If your Christmas pocketbook looks a little like this skinny Santa, how are you going to spread the Christmas spirit?
It is possible to have a very merry Christmas with lots of laughter and lots of love without spending lots of money.
It starts with believing. Yes, it's important to remember the reason for the season and that we are actually celebrating the birth of our savior and the arrival of freedom - but believing in Christmas goes even deeper.
How can you possibly believe that a God you can't see, sent his only son -also that you can't see - to save you from Satan - again that you can't see.....how can you do all that believing and not believe in the "Power" of God? How can you believe God did all that and still worry about the future?
If you really believe He is who He claims to be....then you have to believe in his power.
And guess what? If you believe in the power of God you will "act" on it.
I think it's awful that America has allowed political correctness to destroy the mission of the church. But when you think about it....Atheist have something we are losing. Did you see the current story about a guy in Washington State that has displayed a poster in the Capital building saying that God and all faiths do not exist? Atheist and many other activist have no problem speaking up. They "really" believe they are right and they don't think a thing about supporting their beliefs with action. The American Christian is appalled with gay rights, gay marriage, prostitution, sex education in schools, profanity in movies...etc... But the problem with all those things isn't that they are becoming more acceptable, the real problem is that Christians are becoming more timid.
Christians don't want to offend anyone and because of that belief, we stand for nothing and we hide in the corner when sin shows up.
If you believe in the power of God then teach your children that concept. How? Begin by having a wonderful Christmas without money. The power of God's love can give you creative ideas and help you to have an "exciting" Christmas without spending money. Your children will learn more about God if they see his power working through you.
In Matthew 6:16-19 Jesus tells us how to do this. He was talking about all the "holy" hypocrites who fast just to feel superior to others. They had a Grinch attitude.
"When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."
Wow! What Jesus is saying there is that if we will accept his teachings and do what he says, "without the Grinch attitude" we will not only be rewarded here...but we are storing up treasures in heaven. What a wonderful concept to teach your children.
Moms, Dads, friends....I encourage you to let your faith in God show. Don't let this economic hardship destroy the loving spirit of Christmas. Wash your face, put on something red and dance around your house. Get creative and show your children that the love of God and the joy that only he can give, is present in the bad times as well as the good times.
Here's a few specifics to start. I will be doing this with you.
1. Don't spend money on decorations. Most people have tons of decorations anyway. Sure we all like to replace certain items as they wear out or just don't "pizazz" us anymore. Resist the urge.
Every year one of our traditions is to pile in the car together and search the tree farm for that perfect Christmas tree. We take pictures and everyone takes a swipe as we cut down a fresh tree for all those homemade decorations. It gives a lovely scent to the den and it's a wonderful tradition that we all share. But, it's gotten more expensive. This year,- following my commitment to a depression style Christmas - I'm going to drag an old fake tree out of the basement. It's missing some branches and sits kind of crooked. I'm going to see if I can turn it into a beautiful tree anyway. You know how that goes, no matter how ugly the tree once you decorate it - the lights and the ornaments seem to make it stand straight with purpose.
2. Stay away from the stores and mute all commercials. You won't want what you don't drool over. If you don't know there's some new mechanical lawn ornament - you won't want it. If you don't check out the new electronics, you won't know that you need it. Standing at the window of a store and wishing you had something inside doesn't make you feel grateful for what you do have - it makes you feel deprived. Stop pressing your nose against the window.
3. Start a project of thankfulness. Look at the "stuff" you do have and make a point to tell 5 people everyday about something you are thankful for. Be thankful that your pen didn't leak today. Be thankful that you have a car. Be thankful that you have electricity or nice warm boots. Maybe those boots are a little scratched or torn, but they are warm and cozy in the snow.
4. Center on relationships. The day after Thanksgiving we replaced the tradition of cutting down a tree with playing games. We searched through the basement until we found some games. We played until everyone was exhausted from laughing.
5. If you don't tell your family that your cutting back....they probably won't notice. My children are older and I thought it was appropriate to tell them that we would be cutting out some $$$traditions this year. They all responded well and thought it was a good idea. I used the phrase, "Depression style Christmas" several times during the day. For two of them it didn't seem to be a problem, but by the end of the day I noticed that one child was irritable.
I hadn't realized it, but I had a "depressed" attitude in the tone of my voice and that adult child was responding to it. Once I changed my attitude and put a positive spin - and positive happy voice - to the day, that child's irritability vanished.
Your family will take their cue from you. If you search out ways to be happy and have a fantastic holiday - no matter what the circumstances - your family will follow suit. If you have a sad face, they will too.
Instead of saying, "We don't have the money to buy a tree", replace it with...."I'm so excited. I want to do something different this year. Let's....."
I promise if you get rid of your Grinch attitude, your children will only remember the love and smiles that surround your Christmas. How do I know? Of all the great depression survivors I've talked to and all the ones I've read about - none, zero, nada, no one, felt depressed because of what they "didn't" have during the holidays.
My mother-in-law Helen remembers the first Christmas Wayne was home from France.
"We just didn't have any money. We were working as hard as we could to get started as a couple. Ron was only 17 months and we were living in a tiny little apartment. We managed to save enough to buy Ron a metal red toy jeep, but that was it. I wanted so badly to get Wayne something for Christmas. I saved enough for a new pair of black pants to wear to church, but only had .25 cents left. With no money for a shirt, I had to think creative. I bought a package of black dye. I took his wool army shirt and dyed it black. It took a little work to make sure it was evenly dyed, but it looked very nice. He was so excited when he opened the package. He couldn't believe he would have an entire outfit for Sunday Church."
Christmas isn't about "what" you receive.....Real Christmas Joy is about the "giving" spirit. It's about the loving nature that wants to be thankful. It's about the excitement that wants to celebrate this time of year and the birth of our Savior.
I don't believe we should ever stop giving at Christmas. I think presents are a way of saying, "I love you so much....I took time out of my day to think about you.....I wanted to put action to my love and put something in your hand that you could hold to remind you that I love you."
A present isn't about money - it's about saying, "I love you and I thank you for your life." Isn't that what Jesus is all about. He's about love and showing it to the world. When God said, "I want to show this world how much I love them, He did a multitude of things. He put stars in the sky and gave us beautiful sunsets. He made flowers and gave us the resources to make all the luxuries we have today. All those gifts are there.
But what is the one we rejoice in the most? It's when he sent his only son to walk among us. It's knowing that Christ came and said, I'm here. Hold me, love me and trust me. And when he left....the word of God stayed, the Holy spirit came. As a country we celebrate the birth of Jesus because he came here and said, "Hold me....I'm real."
This year....when you give a gift to your loved one, make sure it's not out of duty - but out of love. Make sure it's not just an expression of money - but an expression of thankfulness for their lives. Write a letter, develop a picture, make a CD, share a part of you with a grateful heart and the receiver will have the best Christmas ever!
God loves you,