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How to have an awesome Christmas without a mountain of holiday bills

No debt

By John M. Palmer

Gifts in a jar — great for neighbors & coworkers

Package the following mixes in a jelly jar or bag and deliver to neighbors, coworkers or friends. Mixes also make a great addition to a gift basket. Be sure to include instructions with the gift.

Hot Chocolate

  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 8 oz. nonfat dry milk
  • 16 oz. instant chocolate milk
  • 6 oz. nondairy creamer

To make one serving, mix 3 tablespoons per cup of hot water. Stir until well blended.

Creamy Café Au Lait

  • 6 oz. jar nondairy creamer
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup instant coffee

To make one serving, mix 1/4 cup of mix with 2/3 cup of boiling water in mug. Stir until well blended.

Cinnamon Mocha

  • 2 cups instant cocoa mix
  • 1/3 cup instant coffee
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon

To make one serving, mix 3 tablespoons of mix with 2/3 cups of boiling water in mug. Stir until well blended.

Spiced Tea

  • Two 26 oz. containers of Tang
  • One 3 oz. bottle instant tea, unsweetened
  • Two 8 1/2 oz. boxes of Red Hots candies
  • One 6 oz. package of dry lemonade
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons ground cloves
  • 2 teaspoons allspice

To make one serving, mix 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon per cup of hot water.

Powdered Milk Bath

  • Dry milk
  • Scented oil, perfume oil or essential oil

Mix 1 cup of dry milk with 5 to 8 drops of oil. Mix well.

Add more oil for a stronger scent. To use, add to running bathwater.

Does the debt of Christmas past haunt you? My friend Tom Coates, president of Consumer Credit of Des Moines (Iowa), says that 50 percent of all adults in Iowa have credit-card debt exceeding $8,000.

It’s hard not to overspend during the holidays because we want to express our love. However, gift giving as a major part of Christmas is a relatively new practice. Until a couple of centuries ago, Christmas was observed as a non-commercial religious holiday. For a long time in most countries, Christmas gifts were limited to feeding the poor or giving to others in need. Unfortunately, the traditional way of celebrating Christmas in America is built around spending money.

The Christmas story as told in Luke 2:1-20 directs us to keep at the center of our celebration not the baby sleeping in the manger but the living Lord who was born in splendor, majesty and simplicity. Three practical thoughts can direct us in planning for an awesome Christmas that brings us closer to the Lord and farther from the debt collectors.

Give what you can — not what others expect.
The Wise Men who came to visit Jesus brought expensive gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. But the shepherds brought no such costly items. They left their flocks, gave their time, visited Jesus and offered Him their heartfelt praise. Pleased with their gifts, God blessed them. How can we follow their lead?

First, pray about the amount you should spend and promise to spend no more than you determine is right. Philippians 4:6 instructs us to not be anxious about anything but to pray about everything — and that includes committing our Christmas giving to the Lord.

Second, make a commitment that you will not go into debt to purchase Christmas gifts. By the way, it’s fine to use a credit card … if you can pay it off when the bills come due.

Third, put together a gift list including the maximum you will spend and take the list along when you are Christmas shopping. Otherwise, you will be tempted by impulse buying.

Fourth, remember that God expects us to be wise stewards of our resources. It’s a joy to give new gifts, but garage sales or secondhand stores, plus a bit of creativity, can produce gifts from the heart that are truly appreciated.

Fifth, if you have a spouse or family, discuss your Christmas gift giving with them. Define together what having an "awesome Christmas" will mean for you.

Sixth, remember that many meaningful gifts carry no dollar signs. A 3-year-old girl carefully wrapped her box in gold paper, gave it to her father and watched him open it. He peered inside. The box was empty. Short on wisdom and long on disappointment, he asked, "Don’t you know that when you give someone a present there should be something inside?"

Tears filled her eyes. "But Daddy, this box isn’t empty. Before I wrapped it, I blew it full of kisses for you."

Her touched and humbled father kept the box the rest of his life. Whenever he felt discouraged, he opened the box and was warmed by the love of the child who put it there. She gave what she could. She gave from her heart.

Give gifts of time, not just money.
Pastor Ray and Joyce Henderson, visitation pastors at First Assembly of God in Des Moines for 15 years, raised seven children, often on a very slim budget. They learned that what their children wanted most was their parents’ time and attention. Together they sang carols at home and for shut-ins, baked and decorated cookies and shared Christmas stories. They made a birthday cake for Jesus and each family member created a birthday card for Him. And in opening their home to a childless couple, an elderly couple, a single person with no family nearby, or a teen-ager from a group home, the Hendersons found themselves richly blessed.

In preparing gifts, each person cut a favorite shape from construction paper — perhaps a bell, a cross, etc., and cut enough shape-cards for everyone in the family. Inside, each described the gift of time being given. "Dad, I will polish your Sunday shoes." "One morning I will clear the sidewalks of snow and three mornings I will start your car and scrape the windows." "I will teach you how to play my trumpet." On Christmas, they shared a family candlelight Communion, read Scripture, sang, prayed and then opened the 72 gift cards that had decorated their tree.

Give children what they need, not just what they want.
In spite of their wish lists, perhaps children could better use a new Bible, a savings bond for college, or books to improve their knowledge or their reading ability. Giving gifts is a big blessing for the giver and the receiver, but when we spend money we do not have to purchase gifts someone does not need, we miss the point of Christmas.

We will experience an awesome Christmas as we reach out to others, share our hearts and our homes, give gifts of our time, find a child in need or otherwise show our love.

It might shock your family and friends, but with courage and God’s grace, you can break an old cycle of relying on what money can buy. Just as money can buy a house but not a home, Jesus came to give us what money cannot buy: forgiveness, healing and restoration. Jesus gave us what we needed, not just what we wanted. Let’s do the same this Christmas.

John M. Palmer is pastor of First Assembly of God in Des Moines, Iowa.


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