No $$$ for Christmas? I feel you, believe me. I know that our personal financial troubles have not been the worst of the worst, but there have been Decembers-past that were extremely difficult. And after we had children, the pressure and emotions of the situation increased dramatically.
In our consumer-based society, we feel guilty and ashamed if we are not able to provide a dream Christmas for our children. You feel somehow less of a person if there are no gifts - or even some years, no tree.
Well, let me give you a few pointers to help you get over the consumerism of Christmas and to lead your family - no matter what your situation - on the trail of Christmas joy.
1. Lighten up.
Many people in many countries are going through struggles that match yours - and millions far worse. Quit strapping on the burden of guilt and shame. Quit condemning yourself.
"There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus..." Rom. 8:1
2. Look around.
Make time to really take in the family who surrounds you. Look at your children, your spouse - or if you are single, look at the people God has placed in your life who love you. Family is HUGE. All families have issues and problems, but there's nothing like the love and support of a family to keep you moving forward.
"God sets the lonely in families..." Ps. 68:6a
3. Focus on what matters.
Rally your troops around the things that truly matter - Jesus, the celebration of His birth, loving each other, blessing people, sharing Jesus' love and forgiveness with others.
"'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." Matt. 22:37-40
4. Use what you have.
Fancy meals out of the question? Then use what you have. You can make a food pantry menu look festive if you use a little creativity. Scrounge up some loose change from somewhere and get a bag of marshmallows to add into your fruit-cocktail-out-of-a-can. Find the half-used candles you stashed somewhere and light those puppies up to cast a glow on your beans and cornbread! And decorations? Make 'em. You know you learned how to cut paper snowflakes in elementary school. You can make a paper chains and string popcorn...or use leaves and berries you find outside in fun, unusual ways. Use your knowledge, experience and creativity to make the time together special. You're equipped for this - you can do it!
"‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’" Matt. 25:21
5. Bless other people.
One of the best ways to stop feeling sorry for yourself is to love and serve other people. There will always be someone worse off than you are. Find them and love on them! Find a family who needs the clothes your children have outgrown and do a Secret Santa drop. Go serve in a shelter in your town. Volunteer in your church to do something - even picking up trash or something very menial. When you force your focus on giving rather than your lack of receiving, your heart will change...and then your outlook will change, too.
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’" Matt. 25:34-40
6. Be thankful.
A heart filled with gratitude is as rich as a person will ever be. If you can push aside the heaviness and sadness for just a brief moment and begin to identify things you are thankful for...then you're switching on the light inside you. Ask God to put the seeds of gratitude in your heart and then take initiative to make them grow. Nurture those seeds with the Light of Jesus' presence and the Rain of the Holy Spirit in your life. Once you start doing that, it will get easier and easier to let thankfulness roll off your tongue. Where bitterness and negativity used to be, you'll find grace and thanks. I had to train myself to think this way, and then I began to feel this way. I would make a list of things I was thankful for. It started out with the usual things: my family, my job, my car, my church, my friends...but as I exercised those muscles, I started seeing SO many things I was thankful for! How the Lord protected me that day in a certain situation, how He blessed me with exactly enough gas money to get me through until we got paid again, the fun time I had with my kids. And THEN, I started prophetically thanking God for things that hadn't even happened yet! Thanking God for the work he was bringing Tim (when we had no jobs on the books), for the new car God would bless us with (when we had one beater car that we shared), for the money to pay our electric bill that was past due (and we had overdrawn our checking account). Amazingly, when I would prophetically (speak truth into the situation before anything was happening) thank God for His goodness and provision in our lives, we saw it happen! Thankfulness is key - and you can be thankful no matter what your financial status is.
"So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness." Col. 2:6-7
If you'll try some of these things, I think you'll be pleasantly surprised at how much you can enjoy Christmas - even though you're not spending excessive amounts of money on toys. And once you've started leading your family down this road, you'll be so glad you did.
I pray that Emmanuel is with you and will fill your hearts, home and family with His love! Christmas blessings to you!