In 1926, the Neiman Marcus Company started publishing an annual catalog of unusual Christmas gifts; but for a number of years, the publication attracted little attention. Then in 1959, the Marcus brothers decided to generate publicity with eye-popping gifts for the “person who has everything.” That year they offered a Black Angus steer, to be delivered either on the hoof or in steaks with a silver-plated outdoor cooker. Each year since, the gifts have become more extravagant. Last year’s catalog included a $1.44 million special edition Gem Triton submarine, with a gemstone keychain. If that’s too pricey for you there are his and hers portraits in chocolate syrup for a mere $110,000.

But Christmas can get out of hand even if you aren’t a Neiman Marcus fan. The stress and strain on our schedules and budgets isn’t what God intends; and I want to humbly suggest that if the holidays leave you worse for wear, you need to heed Henry David Thoreau’s famous dictum: “Simplify! Simplify!”

  • Set a spending cap for yourself, and covenant not to spend more than a certain amount for any one gift, no matter how “perfect” it is.
  • Reduce your gift list. Even one less person can be a significant savings of time, money, and energy.
  • Cut back on your schedule. You don’t have to attend every party or accept every invitation. Sit down with your December calendar and reserve some evenings for peace and quiet. (The secret words are: “I’m sorry; my schedule won’t allow it.”)
  • Don’t worry if your decorations aren’t all up. Less is more. You can vary from year to year which ones to use.
  • Take time for your devotions during the season. Keep a journal of your daily Bible reading, and select thirty-one people during the month to receive a special gift of prayer. You might compose a special prayer for each one, jot it on a Christmas card, and tell them it’s your heartfelt gift for them this season.

Remember, it’s possible to slow down when we have to. If you’re clipping along at seventy miles per hour on the freeway and come to a construction zone, you have to slow down whether you like it or not. If you’re working seventy hours a week and come down with the flu, you have to slow down long enough to recover.

How much better to slow down by choice! Manage the season instead of letting it manage you. We can’t do it all, so we have to tackle the important things and leave the rest in God’s hands. It’s His agenda we should fulfill, and His burdens are light.

David Jeremiah, The 12 Ways of Christmas (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2008).

I have just completed a series of six Christmas Lessons. They are available on Amazon in both print and Kindle versions, as well as part of my Good Questions Have Groups Talking Subscription service. For a medium-sized church, lesson subscriptions are only $10 per teacher per year.