It’s the most wonderful time of year?

A couple of weeks ago, I was teaching a Sunday school class about the heavy responsibility of being a responsible adult around the time of Christmas. A little context. This Sunday school is all guys ranging from 8th-11th grade. A couple of guys have jobs, but most have never thought about managing money let alone providing for a family. Over the course of a month, we looked at the biblical model of “acting like men.” The week prior to this lesson, we took a salary with all the monthly bills to see how far your money would go to see if you could save, give generously, and live comfortably. Things that most adults wrestle with on a weekly basis.

On this particular Sunday, I had the guys draw from a cup their yearly salary ranging from $30,000 to $50,000. The median income for this area is $44,000. Then I had the guys draw out of another cup, their monthly bills ranging from $1,500 to $4,500. At this point, there was some excitement and for others there was some moaning. I had the guys figure out what their monthly income was so they would immediately know how much they would have left over after they paid their monthly bills. One student drew $30,000 as his income which comes to $2,500 a month and then he drew $3,000 a month for bills. So just by chance, he was $500 behind a month to start off.

Next, they drew for the amount of children they would have ranging from one to five. They drew and you guessed it, more panic. Since, it was close to Christmas I wanted them to think about the amount of pressure they place on their parents for stuff and the amount of stress that exists because of the Christmas gift costs. I had all the guys come up with a list of Christmas items they wanted for Christmas. Out of that list, they would draw out the number of items based on the number of children they had previously drawn. More panic inserted here. To give you an idea of the type of gifts that were mentioned, here are the highlights: a car, four-wheeler, dirt bike, Xbox 1, Xbox 1 games, 52″ TV, a puppy… The list goes on.

Once the guys had their Christmas list in hand, they began shopping online for the gifts for their fictional children. Some of the bills were upwards of $25,000 just for Christmas alone. Remember, some of these, guys were already in the hole before Christmas and now their children were begging for some really cool gifts. One particular student remarked about getting his kids Xbox Games, but had no Xbox. For this made up game, we were actually pretty close to reality for many people.

One last exercise before we tallied the results to see what Christmas was going to look like in each of their imaginary families, “Unexpected expenses.” Cue the organ music, “Dun done duh!”On any given day for any given person, an expected expense can simply blind-side you with a bill that seems cataclysmic. It could be a car repair, hospital bill, or laid off from work. No matter the circumstance, the money has to come from somewhere. Once again, I had the guys draw their bill from a cup. The problems ranged from fallen off a roof putting up Christmas lights, to being sued, to a painful dental visit. Bill amounts ranged from $1,500 to $16,000.

The guys looked like they had been sucker punched in the gut. Very few of them had any money left after this exercise. No one wanted to have Christmas after this and they certainly didn’t want to have a family at this point. I asked them, “Now do you understand why your parents are so stressed out at Christmas time?” It is supposed to be a celebration but responsibility and keeping up appearances get in the way of what is most important. You could see it on their faces and in their eyes, how they had peppered their parents with requests of what they wanted for Christmas. Sadly, this is the American Christmas. Christ is an ancient tradition and shopping, gifts, and food are the focal points.

What if this Christmas was different? What if this year you actually celebrated the birth of our Savior and King? How would it change the mood around your house? I believe that the stress would turn into joy and the rush of the season would turn into peace. The great news of celebrating the birth of Christ is that it doesn’t have to cost a cent to throw a birthday party for Jesus. If you do not believe me, look up Luke 2:16-20. The shepherds made a big deal out of the birth of Christ and it didn’t cost a cent. The best part was that others were invited into the celebration as well.

So its your turn now! You know how to dance when your favorite player scores a touchdown. You know how to shout at the top of your lungs because your child has made some incredible play on the field. You know how to cheer because…well… you are just born with that kind of spirit. Put it all together and celebrate the birth of Jesus. It will truly be the most wonderful time of year if you do.

Grace and Peace to you and yours this blessed season!!!

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