By Jon Wallace, art by Justin St. John
I’m going to spend money at Christmas. This is the nature of celebrating and showing hospitality: food, travel, events, gifts—there’s a very practical cost to expressing love.
Typically, as a family of seven, it’s easy for us to spend between $500-1,000 on the Christmas season. There are a lot of bellies to feed, let alone if we’re gifting, and this is just our immediate family. However, it doesn’t mean that we have to be excessive and more importantly, debt-ridden. Sometimes the simplicity of spending less simply means that we stop spending what we don’t have in the first place. Or more often, the debt and overspending is a result of a lack of planning and thoughtfulness before we open our Amazon account.
A few years back we started a new tradition, to move toward a shared vision of giving, receiving and sacrificing as part of our Christmas rhythm. We get out three jars, each labeled differently: “Gifts for us”, “Gifts for others” and “Gifts for those in need.” We then hand out ten-dollar bills to the kids (which they think is pretty cool) and have a simple conversation about each category. What do we want? What do we want for others? Who has the truest needs around us?
In this, our hope isn’t to guilt or manipulate each other toward what we think is most godly; our hope is to acknowledge and relate to Christ in what he might be doing through the resources that He’s given to us each year. We thank Christ for our resources and ask Him to guide us as we give. Each kiddo then gives what they have, in whatever jars they want. We then follow it up with a conversation about what we’re all feeling and thinking. Usually there’s some guilt, hope and peace all intermingled. This is where we pause a bit more and discuss our hearts. Why am I sad about what’s been given away? Why am I at peace about sacrificing? Why am I excited about the presents that I’m hoping for? Why do I feel guilty about getting presents?
And these questions aren’t simply for my kids, usually I’m feeling all of this alongside them.
In all of this experience and questioning, even though we’ve limited our spending, and will ultimately have spent less, we’re mapping out how the Spirit is transforming us, or how we need to be transformed, and what Jesus could do through our resources with a little intentionality and a willingness to spend less.
Try to answer a few questions before you decide to start something like this:
What Family or friends can I ask to join me in this activity?
What’s a realistic budget for this holiday season to keep from accruing debt?
What do I want? What do I want for others? Who has truest needs around me?
How might Christ be asking me to live more generously? More intentionally?