We can all feel it coming. Walmart and K-mart are advertising their layaway plans. One aisle is already decorated for it at half the pharmacies in town, even though there’s another aisle exclusively devoted to Halloween costumes and candy. A friend or two on Facebook has already admitted to pulling out the music and movies.

Christmas is around the corner.

The inside cover of the November Issue of Southern Living has a beautiful close-up picture of a little girl hanging an ornament on an already heavily-laden Christmas tree. The photo is be-decked with the words:

You can never have too much Christmas!

(Christmas is in a ginormous font with a big happy exclamation point, of course.)

And the subscript: “Why stop with the halls? Deck the table, the tree, the bedrooms and everything in between. This Christmas at Belk.”


Call me Cindy Lou Who, but I wholeheartedly disagree with this idea. Because decorations, presents and Christmas are not synonyms that should be used interchangeably.

And I have a little suggestion to make. Well, maybe more than one. Because it seems by the time we’ve passed the 25th of December, we’re full of regret for what we’ve focused on and what we’ve let slide. For how our bank account looks and (sometimes) how our kids are behaving.

We spend a ton of money and then we return a ton of stuff we didn’t want to begin with, because other people have spent a ton of money, too.

So here’s the thing.

It seems like most people agree that the way we’re currently celebrating Christmas is, let’s say… less than ideal.

So before you walk out the door with “Christmas” in your mind or a list in your pocket, I’d like to suggest you do a few simple things.

1. Don’t let advertisers and good marketing call the shots: Decide ahead of time (like now) how you want your family to celebrate Christmas this year. And get specific. How can you make it more about what it’s actually supposed to be about? Want to bake Jesus a birthday cake? Maybe each kid gets three gifts because Baby Jesus got three?

2. Be A Blessing Without Cursing Your Wallet: Rethink relying on store-bought stuff for friends and family. Could you bake cookies with the wee ones or whip up some homemade salsa and put it in Coke bottles? What can you do with what you already have? What budget should you be sticking to? What is the budget per person?

3. How Big Does it Need to Be? If gifts are a must, think about drawing names in every possible scenario. Perhaps among the adult members of your immediate family? Among the brother/brother-in-laws and sisters/sister-in-laws in my family, we draw names and have a maximum spending amount. We ask each person to write down a list of a few things they’d really like to have, and then the person who draws their name can choose from that list, so that it’s still a surprise. But we’re not wasting money on stuff we don’t actually want. {Score!}

4. Change the Way You Spend the Day: Think about doing something special that has nothing to do with gifts or money, and more to do with Jesus this Christmas. Could your family help serve at a local soup kitchen? Could you find a family in need and bring them Christmas dinner?

5. Give the Giving New Purpose: Lots of charitable organizations offer catalogs (like this one at World Vision) so that you can give a tangible gift — an alpaca, a goat…a sack of rice — to a family in need. You’ll get a card to pass along the person you had in mind when you made the donation, and you can both smile that you’re meeting a special need instead. Some families let their children choose a gift to give on Christmas morning.

6. Bundle It Up, And Pass It Out: How much are you likely to spend on gifts this year? 500 bucks? Maybe more? Ya got no clue you’ll just do yer best? Last year the gallup poll reported that Americans estimated they’d spend $743 on Christmas gifts for the season. For about $450 you could sponsor a child with Compassion International for A YEAR. Which means a kid in poverty would be getting nutritious snacks or meals, educational opportunities, health and hygiene training and medical checkups, all in a caring, faith-based environment. FOR A YEAR. What if we looked around and said, “We got enough here…let’s give something away!”?

{And personal note: the more you get to know your child at Compassion, the more perspective you’ll have on how blessed you already are.}

7. Leave the Loot till New Year: Some families wait until after Christmas to give gifts (like waiting until New Year’s Day, for example). This means they save a lot on After-Christmas sales, and the 25th is reserved for doing something special together as a family, with Jesus in mind!

8. Whatever You Do, Make It Manageable: The one thing people seem likely to say about the Christmas season more than anything else? It’s stressful. We’ve got a party every night this week. The kids are in pageants at each of their schools and at church. We want a little tree with lights in every room of the house this year and I need extra lights and ornaments. I need to get a present for my second cousin’s third grade teacher’s wife. I can’t just send Christmas cards to close friends…I have to send them to everyone I ever met.

What if we decided for “Less Stuff More Love” to be the theme this Christmas?

In remembrance of the God who chose a peasant girl to bear His Son, in a barn. Who chose a trough horses and cattle eat from for a crib. Domesticated animals were probably the witnesses of the birth of our Savior. God announced the news not to the rich and famous city dwellers, but with angels, to shepherds out in the field.

For the incarnation of His only Son, God continuously invaded the ordinary with remarkable and miraculous. He brought the greatest gift ever to a world in need.

Got any suggestions for loving more with less at Christmas this year?