USA Today reported that a 25-year-old Memphian has declared his intention to renounce the Christmas rush. He and his wife have told their family and friends not to expect gifts from them this year. "We don't feel any obligation to buy gifts," he said. "I felt odd getting things I didn't need."The Washington Post carried a similar story that broadens the indictment. It quotes psychologist Patricia Dalton who says that she and her colleagues see hosts of unhappy people whose lives have been hollowed out by "runaway consumerism" — the compulsion to buy clothes they don't need, expensive accessories they can't afford, and high-end trinkets they have come to regard as essentials to life. The stress of paying for all these things drives people to work so hard that they're ruining their marriages, their family life, and their health.

Yet we know the American economy could collapse if everybody suddenly quit buying gifts, new things, and only the things we truly need! So what is a responsible person to do? What should a spiritual person do? Is there a middle ground between being a sour-faced Scrooge and a ravenous spendthrift?

My own opinion is that Christmas is one of the most joyous times of the year. I'm not for abolishing gift-giving as part of the season. Can't we see the gifting we do for one another at Christmas as a reminder of heaven's great gift to us in the birth of Jesus? Is the choice really so extreme as frugality versus greed?

Some of us do behave irresponsibly around Christmastime. We seem to forget that debt enslaves. We shower children with an excess that leaves many of them both greedy and ungrateful. Christians too often wind up their year feeling spiritually empty — drained by manic holidays that could have been holy times.

So give appropriate gifts to the people you love. As a testimony to grace received, shower grace on others. But set sensible boundaries about the money you can pay for those gifts, so pride and greed don't drive your spending. If things are tight for your family this year, draw names and radically minimize the buying.

Embrace it for yourself and your family.
Whether flush or finite in your giving potential, build generosity and sharing into your family scheme. If you can't make a donation or supply a gift, help at a homeless shelter. Visit a nursing home. Attend free Christmas Eve worship.

Don't gripe that everyone has "forgotten the true meaning" of Christmas. Just embrace it for yourself and your family. And model it for those who may have gotten caught up in the hijacking of what can still be a holy season for you.

And whatever you do or say, let it be as a representative of the Lord Jesus, all the while giving thanks through him to God the Father. (Colossians 3:17)