It has been said that the USA is the only place where people express gratitude on Thanksgiving for all the stuff they have and spend the next day shoving people over to get the stuff they don’t. Sadly, Black Friday is only the beginning.
Maybe we won’t fight with another dad for the last pair of Nikes’ Prime Hype DF 2016 sneakers
or push over a grandpa to get the Sky Viper V2400. But most of us still fall short of Christlikeness when it’s time to make Christmas purchases. To watch us, people might think we believe ’tis the season to be greedy and grumpy.
So here are some suggestions for how to shop like a Christian:
Decide to make Christ your focus. Pray for wisdom and ask God to help you honor him during this holy season. Set aside ten minutes this week to decide what reading plan you want to use for spiritual reflection. Do you need to order a Bible study or devotional book? Determine what Bible book you will read? If you love going to your city’s production of Handel’s Messiah or the Christmas production for a church you don’t normally attend, get tickets soon.
Stay out of debt. Be a good steward. How twisted is it that we honor the birth of the one whose Word says to avoid the slavery of bills [by accumulating debts] that leave us begging for his provision in January? If necessary, sell some books or that synthesizer you’ve neglected for two years, but stay within your budget.
Avoid last-minute gift panics. If you haven’t done so already, pencil in a date on the calendar for when you will make gift lists and shop. Ask loved ones for guidance on what they really want.
Give gifts that honor. Access the Samaritan’s Purse or East-West Ministries’ catalogs and consider donating gifts in honor of people on your list who already have everything and would appreciate the gesture. Cheer up wounded soldiers, help bring water to a village needing a well, or provide chickens to a family wanting to be self-sustaining. Proverbs 11:25 says, “The one who provides water for others will himself be satisfied.”
Determine to support what is good. Ask yourself if the gifts you plan to give will contribute to what is true, honorable, and right. Or will they include CDs with nasty lyrics and books that undermine the truth? Use your dollars to invest in uplift rather than to oppress.
Give as you go. Collect your spare coins, and encourage that shivering Salvation Army bell ringer by dumping handfuls of pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters in the kettle.
Be patient and joyful. Patience and joy are fruits of the Spirit. So ask the Lord to control you. Imagine you’re that clerk who’s served a long line of impatient people for three hours. Suddenly someone who’s not in a hurry stands in front of you with a smile and a greeting. You know that person has waited as long as everyone else, but he’s still cheerful, understanding, and calm—even when you mess up his order. Before that customer departs, he tells you to have a Merry Christmas. What a difference!
Be honest and just. Avoid buying products from companies that exploit workers. If you’re in a bartering situation, stop pushing hard for a better deal if you know your low price will rip off a worker. If a clerk gives you too much change, give it back. “Do to others as you would have them do to you.”
Pay attention to the music. Yes, you’ll hear “Frosty, the Snowman” and “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus.” But loaded on the play lists among the secular holiday songs will also be “O, come let us adore Him” and “Chr-i-ist, the Savior is born.” You’ll pass choirs singing “Jingle Bell Rock,” but they might also include “Away in a Manger.” Savor those moments. Others may miss the point, but you don’t have to. Christians of all people have reason to believe ’tis the season to be jolly!
Dr. Sandra Glahn is associate professor of Media Arts and Worship at Dallas Theological Seminary. She has authored or coauthored more than 20 books, including Lethal Harvest, a Christy fiction award finalist that explores bioethics from a Christian perspective.