I knew we had a problem when I couldn’t think of a single gift to give our children for their birthdays or for Christmas last year. And when our sweet friends and family began to ask what they wanted for each occasion, I was stumped. Sure, there were a number of things I could have suggested that our kids would enjoy, but none of them represented something they didn’t already have or something they actually needed. How many Wii games should a kid have anyway?
We had too much stuff. And we didn’t like the way that felt.
Because of the hurried nature of the season, though, we didn’t have much time to digest this epiphany until after Christmas. But it began a conversation Kory and I have been having ever since:
How much is too much at Christmas?
We don’t claim to know the answer to this question. In fact, we acknowledge that the answer will be different for every family. But when we consider the fact that, at Christmas, Americans spend close to 40 times the amount of money it would take to provide the entire world with clean water, we’d venture to say most of us are spending too much. (The Advent Conspiracy, pg. 13.)
Did you catch that?
It’s a shocking data point.
And we’ve decided it’s time to cut back.
So this year, we’re doing three things to put us in a better place at Christmas:
1. Spending Less Money: We’re cutting our Christmas budget in half this year. To help with this, we’re drawing names in some circles of our family. And in others, we’re planning family outings together in the New Year in lieu of traditional gifts. With respect to the balance of our Christmas list, we’re choosing to buy fewer and less expensive items.
2. Spending Intentionally: When we do spend consumer dollars, we’re looking for ways to spend them intentionally by purchasing goods from socially responsible companies who are either donating some or all of their proceeds to those in need or who are providing dignified, sustainable jobs to the otherwise unemployed around the world. In this case, we might actually spend more on a particular item than if we had purchased it at the local mall. But this is justified given that some or all of the proceeds are funding some of God’s kingdom work.
3. Spending More Time: In exchange for some of the financial resources we’re choosing not to spend on tangible gifts, we’re giving gifts of our time to the ones we love. We’re also saying “no” to Hallmark this year and hand-making all of the cards we’ll give to our families instead.
We’re not saying that gift giving won’t have a place in our Christmas celebration. To the contrary. What better way to celebrate God’s gift to us through Jesus than to give generously to the special people in our lives! But “[t]he challenge is to balance our desires with the needs in our communities and the rest of the world.” (The Advent Conspiracy, pg. 52.) No doubt, we can give generously to our family and friends without extending ourselves to the point that we’ve left no margin to share our financial resources with those who need it most.
So that’s our goal. To create more margin so that God can move. Both at Christmas and throughout the year.
And in case you’re wondering what we’re going to do with the money we save by cutting back? We’re still praying about that, but will let you know our plans in the coming week!