KEEPING CHRIST IN CHRISTMAS By Larry Burkett It irritates me when I see Christ being taken out of Christmas. That is not limited to only non-Christians--even Christians have adjusted to the commercialism of the holiday season. Obviously, not all of it is bad--in fact the holiday season provides the opportunity for families to reunite and also provides a pleasant break from our routines. I personally look forward to these days as an opportunity to visit with friends who are much too busy at other times in the year to just stop and relax. But we have become terribly imbalanced. We give a myriad of useless gifts at Christmas because it's expected of us and we feel guilty if we don't. The commercialized world now makes a $100.00 toy seem perfectly normal. It's easy to observe the stress that our imbalanced society places on family members. Christian parents who cannot provide the latest indulgences to their children are often depressed and distraught. Obviously, no one purposely makes them feel unworthy or insignificant, but the overwhelming emphasis we place on giving at Christmas certainly does. How did it happen? It would seem apparent that Christians aren't as wise in the things of the Lord as non-Christians are in the things of the world. The secular world is always looking for ways to shift attention from God to material things, and we're naive enough to go along. By the time we realize that our whole direction has been diverted, as it has been at Christmas, we believe it's too late to change, so we give up. "For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world" (1 John 2:16). WHAT TO DO? By anyone's standard, the way Christmas is celebrated today is a gross commercialism of the most important birth in history. But we don't need to preach to the unsaved world to put Christ back into Christmas. They shouldn't; we should. One thing I learned a long time ago in counseling is not to try to overcorrect too quickly. Not only are past habits, such as overindulging at Christmas, difficult to change, but quite often others around us don't see things just the way we do. If you attempt to stamp out all Christmas gifts suddenly, you'll end up with a revolt on your hands. The correct way to is make some positive steps to establish a better balance. Step 1: Stamp out Santa Claus. Christian parents should let their children know that Santa is a fraud. Santa's harmless you say? Not so, when parents knowingly deceive their children about an apparently omnipotent being who travels the world in the wink of an eye and disburses presents on the basis of good or bad. It may be a small matter, but it is a place to start. Step 2: Husband and wife should pray together and agree on a reasonable amount of gift-giving. Once you have reached a decision that you feel is God's plan for your family, don't get caught by Satan's condemnation as Christmas approaches. The pressure to buy when everybody else is buying will be difficult to resist unless you absolutely agree. And again, I repeat, don't overcorrect. Develop a balanced attitude that will accomplish your goals over the next few years. One method that has proved successful to many families is to commit an equal amount spent on gifts to feeding the truly needy. In many areas of the world, an amount equal to most of our gift purchases would feed and clothe a family for several months. By giving to a specific family through a Christian organization, your children can see the purpose and value of your sacrifice and theirs. "And whoever in the name of a disciple gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water to drink, truly I say to you he shall not lose his reward" (Matthew 10:42). Step 3: Stamp out credit. As bad as commercialized Christmas is, commercialized Christmas on credit cards is even worse. Many families literally indenture themselves to creditors for a whole year just to buy some useless junk at Christmas. As Christians, we need to decide if we really serve the God of the universe. If so, then He knows our needs and will meet them through His people without indebtedness. I know that some of the people reading this have desperate needs. I also know that others sincerely want to help but don't know who has needs. The use of credit allows those who have needs to temporarily buffer themselves from God's real source. "As it is written, 'He who gathered much did not have too much and he who gathered little had no lack'" (2 Corinthians 8:15). I believe Satan has used credit cards to cheat God's people out of blessings and to keep them in bondage.