For the past several years the savings rate for the population of the United States has been negative. What that means is that when you average all the savings of every American combined, we are going into more debt each year. That hasn’t happened since the Great Depression.
That tells us a few things like just how bad the recession we are in is, but it also tells us that things are worse than they should be. Retail chains have not been hurting proportionally to Americans at large, which means that as Americans have been making less, they haven’t been making due with less. If “Black Friday” is the day of the year that most retailers begin to turn a profit (hence going from “in the red” to “in the black” in accounting terms), then it is also the day that many Americans also begin to needlessly slide further into debt.
Christmas is not about debt. Just the opposite, in fact. We give gifts primarily to remind us of the three gifts the wise men brought to Mary, Joseph and Jesus. Mary and Joseph were poor. Dirt poor, in fact. Jesus was born in a feeding trough in a stable. The gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh did have symbolic value, which I’m sure you can read about elsewhere if you are curious, but they also supplied something practical.
For a dirt poor family that was about to have to make a midnight flight out of Bethlehem to save their little Savior, those three gifts provided abundantly for their needs as they fled quickly to Egypt to reestablish themselves in a foreign land. Yes the gifts were symbolic, but most importantly they filled a very real and urgent need of supply for that most precious of families.
Christmas gifts should remind us of that night and the flight from Bethlehem the next night. It should cause us to think of those in need around us. How does ringing up the credit card to further in-debt ourselves remind us of that. Does little Johnny really need that new games system at the expense of your family’s well-being? Will that new doll really bring susie happiness when she has to listen to mommy and daddy fighting over the credit card bill in February?
I don’t have advice for you to live within your means. There are plenty of good people out there to help you with that like Dave Ramsey. What I am asking this Christmas season is that you stop to think about what you buy before you buy it. Don’t go into debt for stuff. Don’t honor Jesus’ birth with debt. Honor His birth by increasing the love in your family. Stay out of debt this shopping season and let the gift your children get be peace in your home for the next twelve months. That’s what Jesus’ gifts gave Him, after all. Peace, safety and a happy life away from the grips of a tyrant.
Let your gifts be peace, safety and a happy life away from the grips of the tyrant named debt.