Every year I start the season with a deep resolve and an optimistic plan. I will budget for Christmas for several months so that my family will not be eating lint-covered Christmas candy from the bottom of our stockings as a meal by mid-January. I will deck the halls in manageable stages so that I am not getting out the last of the decorations on December 24 to put away on December 26. I will limit our family's activities so that when it comes time to distribute the gifts on Christmas morning we still recognize each other. Those are always the plans. Then I wake up, it's December 26, and this Christmas season has looked like all of the others.
It's the expense of Christmas that gets me every year. The postage for the Christmas cards, the "one last" decoration we need, the "little gifts" that add up and add up, even the food we consume this time of year seems to total a staggering amount. Then my children are out of school and expect to eat during the day. What's that about? I bought them Christmas gifts, they expect me to feed them, as well? And wouldn't it be a lovely Christmas outing for us to go to the movies together as a family? Kids, I hope you learned something, because we just spent your first year of college on a two hour movie and one tub of popcorn. Even with gasoline prices dropping, a 1,000 mile trip isn't cheap on the fuel tank!
I try not to resent the overwhelming total of this time of year. It is completely within my power to change what my family spends and every year I have grand intentions of doing just that. But I seem to simply take the path of least resistance and most expense, and then gripe about it.
So here it is the limbo-week between Christmas and New Year's — time to look back and look forward. I have a moment to slow down and evaluate. Financial folks will tell you it's time to make an end of year evaluation of your finances. Once I've found all the spare change in the couch, I'm through with that exercise. It's also a good time to take an overall life evaluation. Is what I'm living reflecting what I say I believe?
My thoughts turn to the expense of the season. I look back and count the outrageous cost of this holiday. I repent of my extravagance as I think about the original cost of this holiday: "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son ..." (John 3:16 NIV). I sprinkle the financial blessings God has given me on various things throughout this season, but God gave all He had for the season. He allowed his only child to leave his heavenly home and come to this flawed world. He did that so "... that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life" (John 3:16). Amazing.
I look toward 2009 with a grateful heart. Thankful for another day, possibly another year, to live a life of gratitude, possibly a life of moderation, and share His blessings with the people He puts in my path.
Sarah is part of The Coffee Group, a varied group of women who express their love, faith, and praise for God with ladies they love. They do ladies' retreats and special speaking on God's work in their lives, as well as the importance of sharing your faith story.
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