Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News
December 4, 2011
The annual search for a comfortable way to celebrate Christmas
Here we go again! The search is on. Is there a comfortable way to celebrate Christmas without going deeper into debt? Every December many of us struggle with the perennial temptation to spend money we don’t have buying gifts to swap with those who give us gifts. And there is also the question as to whether we should mail Christmas cards to family and friends. The cost of cards and stamps can add up to a sizable amount.
Unlike caps with “one size that fits all” there seems to be no plan that is a good fit for everyone. So we come up with a variety of answers; and frankly, many of those solutions appeal to me.
Some people refuse to send Christmas cards. Instead they donate to a good cause the amount they would have spent mailing cards. Some years we have opted for that plan. Not sure about this year. As beautiful cards come to us from dear friends we feel the need to respond in kind. Whether guilt is healthy or not we must deal with it.
Occasionally someone sends us a note explaining, “This Christmas instead of our usual gift to you we have made a donation in your honor” to some worthy charity. Who would fault that? It is a good idea, so good that I have used that plan myself more than once. Even so I confess that I wonder if maybe I should have included an apple or an orange with the card acknowledging our donation.
Over the years a child or family member, pressed by financial concerns (as we all are), will suggest that we not give gifts this Christmas. “Let’s just go out for a meal and enjoy good fellowship together.” Not a bad idea. It simplifies Christmas and that is good. The focus is not on gifts but on relationships.
Despite all these good plans there is no denying the fact that Christmas is about giving. The church proclaims Christ as the greatest gift of God to the world. Since we are made in the image of God we are inclined to imitate God. God is love. Love gives. Love at its best gives unconditionally, expecting nothing in return. The Christ within us stirs our hearts to give and giving is as natural as breathing at Christmastime.
Perhaps the key is to find ways to give that are not foolish but wise. A gift made with one’s own hands is a very special gift. The cost is minimal but the investment of time and skill makes a handcrafted gift all the more valuable. One year, with the help of our son Tim, I made and gave several people for Christmas a Lazy Susan turntable. I felt very comfortable with that decision.
This year, with the help of our son Steve, I am handcrafting some wooden crosses to give as gifts. Right now the pressure is on to make as many crosses as possible. Time constraints will determine how many we get done. And I expect to feel comfortable with the decision to give handcrafted crosses as gifts. I hope the recipients will receive them gladly but their reaction is not something I can control.
Besides the crosses my wife and I will purchase a few gifts also. We can’t help it; we just have to do it. But we plan to stay within budget and not increase our indebtedness as we have done many Christmases.
If you plan to buy a few Christmas gifts, I have a suggestion. It is the best way I can think of to spend fifty dollars. My longtime friend Ralph Freeman, a gifted singer, has produced one of the most unique gifts I have ever seen. It is a book of daily digital devotionals prepared in memory of his wife Julie who died earlier this year of brain cancer. He plans to produce several of these books about “Life in the Spirit.” The first, Volume One, is titled ‘Hope.”
The book contains four CDs, one for each week of the month. Each CD contains five messages and a song, one for each weekday. While Ralph’s singing is exceptional his messages are equally inspiring. Ralph lives in Atlanta and has been in full-time music ministry for many years. Early on he sang for five years with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Chorus under the direction of the late Robert Shaw. Ralph has been a featured soloist at great conferences all over the world. However his best work, I am persuaded, is now contained in this book of CDs. I am excited that there are more to come!
If you should want to invest fifty dollars in this unique gift, you can secure “Hope” from Ralph by writing him at PO Box 889222, Dunwoody, GA 30356. His email address is Ralph@ralphfreeman.com. His toll free number is 1-800-304-9735.
If you buy this book and Ralph’s devotionals do not touch your heart, then mail the book to me and I will send you a check for fifty dollars. If you cannot think of someone to give the book as a gift, then give it to yourself. Dean and I are blessed every night by letting Ralph sing us to sleep!
Whatever plan you choose this year to celebrate Christmas, find one that is wise for you, a plan that is comfortable for you and your bank account. And find a way to do something for Jesus. After all, Christmas is his birthday! + + +