Dr. Seuss wasn’t thinking of me when he wrote How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Charles Dickens would not have asked me to play Scrooge in his story. In spite of what you may read later . . . remember that! I’m not anti-Christmas, nor do I brandish the overused bumper sticker, “Put Christ Back into Christmas.” Our family has a tree every year. We exchange presents, play Christmas music, sing carols, enjoy the festivities, and even wish a few people “Merry Christmas.” Believe me—I have no bone to pick with the yuletide season, unless it’s off the turkey.
But you’ll have to agree, the season is not without its unique problems and temptations. Our lovely land of plenty drifts dangerously near insanity three or four weeks every year, and it is to that issue I’d like to address. According to the United States Census Bureau, over the past few years:
Americans spent 30.5 billion dollars at retail stores during the Christmas season.
Americans spent 39 billion dollars for Christmas gifts over the Internet.
More than 493 million dollars were spent on Christmas trees.
The United States imported nearly 594 million dollars worth of Christmas tree ornaments from China.
A total of 3.4 billion bucks worth of dolls, toys, and games was shipped from manufacturers to retailers.
Twenty billion pieces of mail passed through the U. S. Postal Service between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Some have gone so far as to permanently associate their cities and towns with Christmas, with names such as North Pole, Alaska; Santa Claus, Indiana; and if you’re into reindeer, there’s the village of Rudolph, Wisconsin and the town of Dasher, Georgia.¹
Those are the facts. They have been documented.
With all this Christmas commotion, there’s a “cosmic lure” that draws many like a magnet. Emotions, unpredictable and undisciplined, begin to run wild. Nostalgia mixed with eleven months of guilt can prompt purchases that are illogical and extravagant. Neighborhood pressure can cause houses to be strung with thousands of lights. Television advertising, Christmas bank accounts, and special “wish books” only increase the pull of the magnet that inevitably ends with the sound of the cash register or the hollow snap of the credit card.
I remind you . . . I’m not against the basic idea of Christmas or the beauty of the scenery. My plea is for common sense and balance; that’s all. We Christians need to be alert to the dangers . . . then think through a strategy that allows us to combat each one. I’ll mention only four.
1. Doctrinal Danger . . . substituting the temporal for the eternal.
A couple of Scriptures give needed counsel here: “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world . . . be transformed” (Romans 12:2 NIV)! “Keep seeking the things above, where Christ is. . . . Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth” (Colossians 3:1–2).
It’s important that we rivet into our heads exactly what we’re celebrating. It is our Savior’s arrival, not Santa’s. The significance of giving presents is to be directly related to God’s presenting us the gift of His Son—and our kiddos need that reminder year in and year out.
2. Personal Danger . . . impressing but not imparting.
We represent the King. We are His chosen ambassadors, doing His business “in season and out of season” (2 Timothy 4:2). Then let’s represent Him this season! People are wide-open to the gospel these days. Forget about trying to impress others by what you buy. Spend more time imparting what you already possess.
3. Economical Danger . . . spending more than you have.
Before every purchase, think. Ask yourself some direct, penetrating questions: “Is this within my budget?” “Is it appropriate?” “Is it really saying what I want it to say?” Gifts you make are often much more appreciated and much less expensive than those you buy. Stretching the dollar usually involves planning ahead. A safe rule to follow is this: if you don’t have the cash—don’t buy it. For example, my wife and I decided years ago that Christmas cards had to go. No offense, now. That’s just an illustration of something God spoke to us about. We found cutting out Christmas cards saved us many dollars and gobs of time.
4. Psychological Danger . . . getting built up for the letdown.
One of the most effective maneuvers of the world system is to create a false sense of excitement. The Christian can get “high” very easily on the crest of Christmas. The afterglow can be a dangerous, depressing experience. Guard yourself. Keep a firm hand on the controls of your mind and emotions. Don’t be deceived. Enjoy the 25th . . . but not at the expense of the 26th. If you stay occupied with the Person, you’ll seldom have to fight off the plague. Make Hebrews 12:3 your aim—“consider Him”; just think about Him.
Enjoy the holidays now. Have a wonderful time on Christmas . . . and on New Year’s Day. Just think, this could be our last, so let’s make it our best.