This year, I’m one of many affected by the U.S. economic downturn. It’s Christmas and I don’t have enough money. Many of you must be feeling some of the same things I’m feeling: depressed, worried and a bit hopeless. I simply can’t celebrate Christmas my usual way.
Usually, we buy moderate gifts for ourselves, our children, siblings and parents, inexpensive gifts for others, orphans, widows, the needy and people in our church family who need help. Not this year. We’re struggling to keep our mortgage, utilities and necessities paid. Our savings went months ago when my husband’s construction work declined. Our line of credit went months ago to help an elderly relative whose income dropped with the stock market.
So, what do we do? We don’t like this position we’re in. Oddly enough, we’ve been here before. Our story of survival through a previous Christmas helped me to remember what we’re supposed to do.
A Christmas Story
Many years ago, when our four children were school-age, our financial situation in December was dismal. My self-employed husband had suffered an accident that required surgery, so he’d been out of work. I was a subcontractor in the real estate industry, so my income fluctuated. We were behind in many bills. Expenses exceeded income and Christmas was coming.
We prayed to God as a couple, asking for direction and wisdom. We bore our hearts to the Master, letting him know we felt like losers and hopeless because we could not provide Christmas for anyone. We discovered God’s direction through these prayers. He wanted us to stop fretting and remember that this celebration is not about gift giving. This celebration is about Christ! He wanted us to be aware and thankful for the birth of the Christ child, the One who saved our wretched, sinful souls. He wanted us to rebuke the spirits of depression and anxiety that desired to bring us down into the pit. So, we did.
We gathered the children together one evening and told them that we were going to celebrate Christmas in a whole different way that year. We wanted to do all that we could to honor the King of Kings, who was born on that evening when the angels announced His birth to the local shepherds – a spiritual birthday for Christ. Our hearts were unified in this celebration plan, but our childrens’ hearts were not. They wanted stuff!
When we were at peace with our plan and walking in the Spirit, we didn’t feel like failures. However, we exist in this material world and in this flesh. We repeatedly gave the worry about not having Christmas presents for our children over to the Lord, remembering Christ’s direction and wisdom that presents are not what Christmas is all about.
As Christmas day drew closer, we had gained strength through the Holy Spirit to celebrate Christ’s birth with our simple gift of praise and thanks for His life, death and resurrection. We were at peace and our children were following our lead (somewhat).
On Christmas Eve, we went to our church’s candlelight service. The service was pure and beautiful and gave great confirmation to our celebration of the Lord’s birth. On our way out, our deacon told us that there were a few gifts in the van for our family. We did not tell the children about the gifts; they were neatly placed in the rear of the van with a blanket tossed over them. However, I had to hold back the tears of joy that welled up in my eyes just knowing that there would be something for our kids the next morning.
When we got home and put the children to bed, we got the gifts from the van. Oh, what a blessing! There were several gifts for each of our children and for us. We immediately knelt together in praise to God. We hadn’t told our church about our financial distress, but God had touched their hearts to give to our family. The packages were wrapped and tagged for each person. However, the “from” portion of the tags were blank. We were so aware of these gifts coming from the heart of Christ that we couldn’t dare put “Santa” in that space, so we put “Jesus.”
In the morning, the children were so surprised to find gifts for them. They asked had we changed our minds and decided to do things like before. We told them that we hadn’t changed anything, but that Jesus had decided that He wanted them to have some gifts for the celebration of His birth and we were going along with it. To this day, our adult children speak of the year that their Christmas presents were from Jesus.
Our pride tried to wreck Christmas that year and is trying again this year. We were so down on ourselves for not being able to provide. We never wanted to be someone’s charitable case. We were ashamed. Then God took us by the hand and showed us several things:
We Don't Need to Fear
As always, worrying doesn’t change anything and is not glorifying to the Lord. We must remember not to focus on our circumstances because we can easily become fearful. Fear invites the enemy to paint an ugly, gloomy picture of our lives.
The fear of man brings a snare, but he who trusts in the LORD will be exalted. - Proverbs 29:25 (NASB)
He is Our Provider (Jehovah Jireh)
All things belong to God. He has the power to give us what we need and enjoys blessing His children. When we were ready to experience Christmas with no gifts, God decided to provide us with gifts. The gifts we received were beyond material value; they were the gifts of kindness, love and compassion.
Abraham called the name of that place The LORD Will Provide, as it is said to this day, "In the mount of the LORD it will be provided." - Genesis 22:14 (NASB)
He Blesses the Pure in Spirit
The Holy Spirit led us to a place of peace, where we could celebrate the birth of Christ without the commercial burdens of a worldly Christmas. It took the refiner’s fire to burn the desire out of us to participate. We really didn’t have the money, so the fire was more to burn the wrong reasons for celebrating Christmas out of us, along with the shame and despair we had felt for not having the money. The end product of going through the refining process was two souls leading a family to a pure joyful worship of the gift of Christ’s birth.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. - Matthew 5:8 (NASB)
He Moves Through Other People
We had always been on the giving side of the equation before that Christmas. It gave us joy to bless others that the Lord would put in our path. When we were without those resources, God blessed us by allowing us to be the receivers. He used others with hearts bent toward His ear to know that He would be glorified by their giving.
The generous man will be prosperous, and he who waters will himself be watered. - Proverbs 11:25 (NASB)
Pride is Not of God
Initially, we were embarrassed because we couldn’t give gifts. We didn’t want anyone to know that we were poor. God helped us to see that wealth is not material, rather it is spiritual. We were gifted beyond measure with the peace that surpasses all understanding.
The afflicted also will increase their gladness in the LORD, and the needy of mankind will rejoice in the Holy One of Israel. - Isaiah 29:19 (NASB)
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