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Why This Christmas Will Be Different

Christmas Will Be Different This Year

“Stores Face Credit Crisis” read a headline in USA Today. The article went on to explain that struggling retailers will have to borrow money to purchase inventory for the Christmas season; but they might not be able to get the loans they need. Thanks to a jittery economy, many retailers will simply find it difficult, if not impossible, to survive the Christmas season even though this is the time of year they should be thriving.

The same financial challenges will also be experienced by their customers who are purchasing the goods. Given the recent financial turbulence, we know that many of us who normally spend a great deal at Christmas will have to cut back, or perhaps forego Christmas gifts altogether. Just moments ago I heard on the news that here in Illinois more than 66,000 customers have had the gas turned off in their homes because they’re behind in their payments, on average between $1,000 to $3,000. These families—God bless them—will not be concerned about whether they have money for Christmas gifts; they will just be thankful if they can get the heat turned back on in their homes. And, yes, they will also be grateful if they have some food on the table for themselves and their children.

Earlier this year a financial magazine predicted that there would be 10,000 heart attacks in America this year because of the fluctuation in the financial markets. I have no idea how accurate the predication turned out to be, but no doubt there are many who have died because of fear, anxiety, and regret. My suspicion is that most who died probably had enough money to pay their heating bill; most probably had huge financial investments that went sour. Many were discontent with simply being rich; they gambled to become richer and lost it all in the process. No wonder the Bible admonishes us, “Having food and raiment, be content.”

Our new president will have his plate full: the turbulent economy, terrorism, and mounting international crises…these are but a few of the matters that will have to be addressed. Let’s pray for him, and let’s not expect miracles. During the heated presidential campaign I could not help but think that our expectation of what a president can do is simply unrealistic. To listen to the rhetoric, you’d think that we were electing him to usher in utopia. As we shall discover, this president, like others before him, will have limitations, make mistakes and despite his efforts, poverty, crime, and economic woes will continue.

Getting back to Christmas: yes, for many people it will be different this year—fewer, if any gifts, less money spent in restaurants, less travel, and a clearer focus on survival. And that gives us an opportunity as believers to make a real difference in the lives of others: We can all have a different Christmas this year if we choose to bless others rather than just ourselves; we can transform Christmas for those who are lonely, those who are struggling without food and clothes for their children.

Below I list seven ways that all of us can have a different Christmas. Whether we are strapped for cash or are blessed with wealth, this Christmas can be different if we change its focus. Like Jesus, we need to think about others and not ourselves.

Seven Suggestions on Having a More Meaningful (and Cheaper) Christmas

Want to give your family the best Christmas ever, no matter what happens to the economy? Pastor Lutzer suggests shifting your focus through the following seven activities.

One: Make a gift, rather than buy one.

As children growing up on a farm in Canada, we had a few gift purchases but also gifts my parents made: perhaps a sweater knitted by my mother or a toy my father made. Even today with some creativity we also might be able to make rather than buy gifts. How about giving a young couple a few free nights of baby sitting, or giving a friend a picture arrangement you’ve put together? Truth be told, those kinds of gifts are remembered much longer than the ones purchased at Sears!

Two: Invite neighbors into your home for a Christmas celebration.

On occasion, Rebecca and I have had an evening in which friends are invited to enjoy light refreshments, exchange some inexpensive gifts, and talk about the meaning of Christmas. This opens doors for friendship throughout the whole year.

Three: Open your home to share Christmas with a needy family.

I know that we all like to be with family at Christmas, but why not expand the family to include those who might be more needy than you? Many families feel alone; they aren’t in a position to reach out and connect with another family, but you can take the first step. Jesus, you remember, says that there is a special reward for those who show hospitality to those who could never possibly repay it (Read Luke 14:12-14).

Four: Visit a children’s hospital to share gifts accompanied by your love and prayers.

Like you, I’ve been deeply touched by the suffering of the children in a hospital. Take the time to check with the volunteer staff about the conditions under which you can make a visit to bless at least a few children. God will be honored, and you will have the best Christmas ever!!

Five: Sing carols at a senior citizen’s home and bless those who probably have not been visited for a long time. Or volunteer at a soup kitchen or a homeless shelter.

The director of a senior citizen’s home told me that only about one-third of the residents have friends or relatives who come to see them on some kind of regular basis. Because my parents are now in a senior citizen’s home, I am much more sensitive to the needs that exist in these centers. I’m glad that I have siblings who live nearby who can visit them several times a week, if not daily. What an opportunity these homes afford for us to spread the joy of Christmas.

Six: Participate in the “Angel Tree” ministry to children whose father (or mother) is incarcerated.

For years we here at The Moody Church have shown our love to children who struggle with the shame associated with having a parent in jail. Gifts are purchased from funds given by the congregation and then all of the children are brought to the church to receive their gifts and enjoy a Christmas celebration. The children leave with the assurance that they are loved by us and by God. I hope your church gives you the same opportunity.

Seven: Find a project you can do as a family: help needy neighbors, or bless a widow who needs some work done to her house.

Last year one of our church families (we’re talking about their children and their spouses, grandchildren, etc.—a total of about 26 people) rented a bus for the long drive to Kansas to do some work in a house that needed to be rehabbed after a tornado. They spent no money on gifts! They walked through malls and said, “No, not for us!” Their gift to one another was enjoying each other’s company and playing table games in the evenings. “How freeing it was for us,” the mother/grandmother of the clan told me!

If we want Christmas to be different this year, we have to share the Good News with others by our deeds, by our investments, and by a credible testimony for Christ. If we do that, this can be the best Christmas ever!