Whether we are ready or not, the Christmas season is upon us. Even before the last “trick or treat” was pronounced at my front doors, stores were gearing up with Christmas displays and commercials are making an all-out appeal for my gift-giving business.
This article is a personal journey in simplicity – sensing God asking me to take a step back and contemplate my God-honoring consumerism this holiday season. Please know that this is not written to put a guilt trip on anyone or asking us all to go around this holiday season in sackcloth and ashes. This is my own musings on making my Christmas giving more purposeful and an effort to live a simpler life. As always, I want to pursue Christ in all my celebrating of this season, but I will admit I have often gotten swept up in the worldly view of Christmas and have ignored the “still, small voice” from within asking me to take a second look at the motivation behind my actions. This is the ongoing discussion I am having with myself concerning the deeper, holy expression of my spending at this “most wonderful time of the year”.
I’m not beating myself up mind you, for I am (as you are) a victim of persuasive advertising. “We are encouraged to consume at every turn of the advertising industry, which annually spends nearly $500 per U.S. citizen, by the commercialization of anything and everything to stir up our compulsion to consume” (Michael Schut, Simpler Living, Compassionate Life). We cannot blame Madison Avenue for everything because there are personal motivators behind our holiday consumerism such as an unguarded lull into the “gotta get it” mindset or the trap of “they gave me something so I must reciprocate”. We are all well aware of the remorse when looking at our January credit card bill and this may help in some of the over spending, but let’s look at it from a life-of-simplicity point of view.
This is my own musings on making my Christmas giving more purposeful and an effort to live a simpler life.
“The Christian Discipline of simplicity is an inward reality that results in an outward life-style.” For me this definition means being sensitive to the movement or conviction of the Holy Spirit in my life and acting on it. This does not mean that the Holy Spirit is a killjoy and I am to live an austere gift-giving lifestyle. As I stroll store aisles or shop websites I want to shop mindfully. There are a couple of questions I want to be asking myself before I pull out my credit card (or cash…..you remember cash, don’t you?):
- Does the recipient of this gift need or want this item?
- What is it about this gift that makes me think the recipient would like it?
- Do I have the resources for this gift?
- Am I trying to alleviate some unmet need in myself?
Certainly we can look at the biblical foundation to simplicity. Scriptures that comes to mind are:
- “No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” Luke 16:13
- “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:21
- “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Matthew 6:33
You probably thought of these verses before you read them and, like me are thinking, “OK, how do I live this out in practical gift giving this year?” I was recently introduced to an old adage that has streamlined my gift buying to a certain extent. Simply put it is “want, need, wear, read”. If I know that one of these material aspects of my gift-recipient’s life is not being met then I will contemplate if I am to be the giver of that item.
So, are you trying to navigate the wish lists of loved ones or your desire to make your feelings more tangible to those special people in your life this Christmas? I challenge you as I challenge myself to not make gift giving a knee-jerk reaction this year, but sit in God’s presence asking the hard questions concerning gift-giving traditions.
Possibly these websites will help with clarity in what is truly enough this holiday season:
 Foster, Richard. Celebration of Discipline. 79