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Pastoral Exhortation - Series of 2010

Honouring Christ Through Christmas Gifts

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It irritates all of us who love the Lord Jesus when we see that He is taken out of Christmas. That abject deed is not limited to only non-Christians – even Christians have adjusted to the commercialism of the holiday season.

The Pressure Of The Commercialised Christmas Celebration

We have become terribly unbalanced. We give a myriad of useless gifts at Christmas because it is expected of us and we feel guilty if we do not. The commercialised world now makes hundred-dollar toys seem perfectly acceptable. It is easy to observe the stress that our unbalanced society places on family members. Christian parents who cannot provide the latest indulgences for their children are often depressed and distraught. Obviously, no one purposely makes them feel unworthy or insignificant, but the overwhelming emphasis we place on giving at Christmas certainly does. So great is this social pressure that the closer we get to Christmas Day, the more depressed and unworthy those who cannot afford feel. Unfortunately, the pressures do not end once Christmas is past either. Those who cannot afford to compete in their gift-giving often dread congregating with their friends immediately after the holidays because at “show and tell” time, they do not have much to show.

The Pleasure Of The Biblical Christmas Celebration

One extreme is not balanced by going to the opposite extreme. The distortion of Christmas would not be corrected by eliminating gift-giving altogether. What we need to do is to follow God’s plan for our families without the pressure from the commercial world. “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him... And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever” (1 John 2:15-17).

In order to do so, I believe that as Christians, we must first believe that God’s plan is different from the world’s and is more – not less – fulfilling. It is a deception to think that by adopting a more disciplined lifestyle, we are somehow denied the “good life”. The key is to believe that God’s wisdom is the best.

What We Need To Do

The correct way is to take some positive steps towards establishing a better balance.

Step 1: Kick out Santa Claus. Christian parents should let their children know that Santa is a fraud. “Santa is harmless,” you say? Not so, when parents knowingly deceive their children about an apparently omnipotent being who travels the world in the wink of an eye and disburses presents on the basis of good or bad.

Step 2: Stamp out credit. As bad as commercialised Christmas is, commercialised Christmas on credit purchase is even worse. Many families literally indenture themselves to creditors for a whole year just to buy some useless junk at Christmas. As Christians, we need to decide if we really serve the God of the universe. If so, then He knows our needs and will meet them through His people without indebtedness. I believe Satan has used credit schemes to cheat God’s people out of blessings and to keep them in bondage.

I know that some people reading this have desperate needs. Let them pray to God. I also know that others sincerely want to help but do not know who has needs. Approach your church leaders to see how you can channel your money to support the needs of others. Let us free ourselves from  unnecessary spending in order to be vessels of blessings to the needy people and ministries.

Step 3: Stretch out to help. Let this Christmas and New Year celebrations be occasions when we practise the biblical principle in 2 Corinthians 8:14-15 – “now at this time your abundance may be a supply for their want, that their abundance also may be a supply for your want: that there may be equality: as it is written, He that had gathered much had nothing over; and he that had gathered little had no lack.”

Husband and wife should pray together and agree on a reasonable amount of gift-giving. Once you have reached a decision that you feel is God’s plan for your family, commit an amount to be given as gifts to support the needs of the church or the needy brethren.

In many areas of the world, an amount equal to most of our gift purchases would feed and clothe a family for several months. By giving to a specific family or specific needs of the church, your children can see the purpose and value of your sacrifice and theirs. “And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward” (Matthew 10:42).

Why Christmas Gift-Giving Is An Issue

Gift-giving is one area of Christmas that has been distorted by Satan. The practice of giving gifts is good, but the misuse of it entangles us and diverts our attention from Jesus Christ to material things. Our problem is that we keep trying to negotiate a compromise with an enemy who is totally dedicated to destroying us. It is time that, as Christians, we decide to draw a battle line again. When it comes to commercialising Christ’s birth, we need to fight it by following the biblical kind of gift-giving.

“Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy” (1 Timothy 6:17).

 

Pastoral Exhortation