December Debt

December 13, 2015

David Sorn

Feeling drained by all the time and money that goes into buying Christmas gifts each year? Find out a way to make the gift buying experience more meaningful and more connected to the actual spirit of Christmas this year!

December Debt

December 13, 2015

David Sorn

Feeling drained by all the time and money that goes into buying Christmas gifts each year? Find out a way to make the gift buying experience more meaningful and more connected to the actual spirit of Christmas this year!


Morning. My name is David Sorn. Lead Pastor here at Renovation Church.

Let’s play a word association game:

When I say Christmas…the average person in America thinks…PRESENTS!

Every year most of us go absolutely bonkers spending money on Christmas presents.

When you’re young, you have a list of 50 items long

When you’re older, you say there’s nothing that you want, but now that you maybe have some money, you’re the ones buying 50 items for the Grandkids.

If you’re somewhere in the middle, and you have little kids, most of us tend to go crazy trying to give our kids a Christmas to remember.

But do they remember it?

Do they remember it for the right reasons?

And how much do we really spend?!

Did you know that last year, Americans spent 601 Billion dollars in holiday retail sales?

That stat probably means nothing to you, so let’s make it more personal..

How much do you think you spend a year?

Check out this poll from Gallup, one of the premier American polling agencies:


Americans are planning to spend $830 this year (per family unit) buying Christmas gifts!

Now, that is how much we’re planning, and their data shows what we actually spend is usually fairly close to that

$830 a person…or a couple…a family unit if you will.

That may seem shocking to you.

If you have kids, the poll says you’re likely to be even above $830

30% of American family units actually spend over $1,000.

We spend A LOT OF MONEY on Christmas presents.

But that’s not all.

It’s not just that we’re spending a lot…a good portion of it isn’t even worthwhile spending.

Many of us are just “spending to spend” because that’s what we’re supposed to do at Christmas

Get everyone a gift!

Our culture has made gift giving an entrance fee into a group that we can’t even define

In fact, let’s do a fun exercise.

Raise your hand…if you can legitimately remember 1 Christmas present that you got last Christmas. I’ll give you 5 seconds.

Raise your hand…if you can remember 3 presents.

Raise your hand if you can remember one thing you got 2 years ago.

Most of can’t raise our hand this because the vast majority of things that we get aren’t things that we actually needed, and a portion of the things we get aren’t even things we wanted!

We constantly give and get presents we don’t need

You ever asked yourself why so many people just give “Gift Cards” nowadays?

It’s because we can’t think of anything you actually need, so maybe you can think of something?!?

And we keep getting presents we don’t even WANT!

In fact, eBay is reporting that there are literally 1 BILLION dollars worth in unwanted Christmas gifts resold on their website ALONE every year.


It seems to me…that we have a problem.

Maybe even a couple of problems…

ONE: Many of us, as a single or as a couple, are spending close to $1,000 a year of “stuff”

TWO: And it’s not just the money, it’s that it’s that…”stuff”…stuff that gets forgotten, tucked in a closet, or dropped off at Goodwill by February.

THREE: And add on top of that…it all has a massive disconnect from the actual meaning of Christmas

So what do we do??

One of the themes of this series is that we want to teach you to “Do December Differently”

To start making this month about Jesus…and letting it have a positive spiritual impact on your life.

Last week we talked about the fact that we do all of these crazy activities that make our December a blur, and then we miss Jesus

But there IS a way to do it differently…to cut out the crazy, and bring Jesus back into focus.

But as we’re talking about this week…when it comes to our spending, most of us don’t do December differently, and most people just end up in debt by January.

Financial debt.

Emotional debt.

And it makes for a Long December.

But I want to give you a reason to believe that “maybe this year will be better than the last” 

What if you did it differently?

What if your spending looked different?

What if you could actually see a clear connection between the way we give Christmas gifts and the birth of Christ?

So how do you do this all differently?

I want to tell you how this morning.

But before I do, let me tell you that this is actually going to take more courage than you think it will.

The concepts are not all that hard, but actually telling your parents, your own kids that you’re going to do Christmas differently this year…and then actually DOING it differently…is far from easy.

But remember, even if this means you have to have a hard conversation with someone in your family about what you’re doing differently…

Your aim at CHRISTmas is not to bow to cultural traditions, but to CHRIST.

So how do we do this?

Let’s look to God’s Word…the Bible.

In Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, he tells them WHY they should give to others.

And he’s going to give them a theological reason.

In other words, he’s going to say: “GIVE because here’s what God did”

And that’s going to be important for us to draw out in our conversation today.

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(2 Corinthians 8:7-9) – NIV

7 But since you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you—see that you also excel in this grace of giving. 8 I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others. 9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.

Paul is telling us that Jesus was rich (he had everything in heaven), but became poor (he came to earth as a baby in a manger)

Paul says a similar thing in Philippians chapter 2

(Philippians 2:6-8) – NIV

6 Who, being in very nature God,

did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;

7 rather, he made himself nothing

by taking the very nature of a servant,

being made in human likeness.

8 And being found in appearance as a man,

he humbled himself

by becoming obedient to death—

even death on a cross!

And what do we get from his gift? Look back quickly at verse 9 of the 2 Corinthians passage

(2 Corinthians 8:9) – NIV (explain “how it’s a gift” as you go)

9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.

God gives…to bless.

That’s what true giving is, correct?

You give to bless

And that’s our model this December.

Don’t just spend to spend, give to bless. (repeat)

So WHY did God give us the GIFT of his Son at Christmas?

So we could be blessed (have life…a relationship, etc.)

So if we’re going to emulate and imitate Christ at Christmas…then let’s begin to rethink WHY we give gifts in the first place.

I mean, we can still see a faint reflection of Jesus when we give presents at Christmas

But the problem is that reflection is unbelievably dim because nowadays when we do the typical thing and drown ourselves in presents and gadgets that no one will remember

We’re not blessed by it

The giver is not blessed by it

And Christmas just ends up being a consumeristic mess that leaves everybody crabby and in debt

But what if we actually did Christmas differently…and we reflected what God did at Christmas…and we gave…to bless?

Then there could be a purpose in our giving.

So what does that actually look like?

What I want to do this morning is give you 3 principles that will get you out of the habit of “spending to spend,” and into the joy of “giving to bless.”

And I believe if you do these things…your Christmas this year will be significantly more meaningful


Here’s principle #1: Spend Less.

At the beginning, when I asked you all: “How much do you spend on presents at Christmas?”

My guess is that 90% of you were completely taking a stab in the dark.

Our first problem is that we don’t keep track of it.

$830 seems shockingly high…even for a couple.

And yet…when you actually write down who you spend for:

Each other

Each of your kids

Your parents

Your mother & father-in-law

Your siblings

Your spouse’s siblings

Your nieces and nephews…

Maybe for a friend…or a co-worker

$830 isn’t all that surprising

And since so much of it just goes to waste or gets returned anyway, what it would look like to spend less this year?

“Spending Less” doesn’t mean you need to become the Grinch and stop giving gifts (We’ve been trying to take a pretty moderate approach this series…)

Spending less is a call to stop wasting money on gifts no one will remember in a year

It’s to stop spending so much money “just because” that’s what we’re supposed to do at Christmas.

That’s not a great reason.

Just this week, I was in a big box store that rhymes with Smarget, and I was there getting a gift for someone “because I was supposed to.”

“That’s what we do.”

And I just wandered around the store for 20 minutes…looking.

Now, chances are, whatever gift I end up with, no one will remember in a year.

That…is just “spending to spend”

If you spend less, your family won’t hate you.

They don’t even remember what you got them last year.

Turn to the person next to you and say, “What did I get for you last year?”

When I was in Rwanda, the kids had so little that they didn’t even have soccer balls.

They just made soccer balls out of weaving together plastic grocery bags.

There are probably more toys in your house than in an entire Rwandan village.

Your kids will be fine.

Besides, psychologists tell us that often the bigger the frenzy at Christmas, often the more over-stimulated, overwhelmed, and dissatisfied kids become.

They don’t even know what to do with all that “stuff” that doesn’t really seem to satisfy them anyway.

I think one of the best things you can do is to go home this week and just make a hard budget for the first time:

Say, “We’re going to spend $500” or whatever you decide

And then actually keep track of it

And don’t spend what you don’t have

Did you know that “Consumer Counseling Agencies” see a 25% increase in the number of people seeking financial counseling in January and February?

Because most people “spend to spend,” and when the long December is over, and their bank account reality hits, they don’t know what to do.

Be willing to be different. Be proactive this year.

Give handmade gifts like some of you can.

give baked goods with love.

Be courageous enough to do December differently.

Spending to spend (buying “stuff” for tradition’s sake) isn’t going to bring out the true meaning of Christmas.


If you do want to “Do December Differently,” and you don’t just want to “spend to spend, but give to bless,” here’s the 2nd principle:

#1: Spend Less

#2: Give Relationally

When God gives to bless…when he gives to make us ‘poor people’ rich with life…what does he give?

He gives himself.

He doesn’t give us dollar bills.

He gives himself…he gives relationally.

Two years ago, there was a study and book written about what kind of spending (if any) actually makes us happy.

The researchers found that most of it doesn’t.

But one of the few types of spending that can actually make us happy, is when we buy experiences…particularly if we get to experience with another person.

As our family on my wife’s side continues to grow, one of the things we’re trying differently at Christmas this year, is rather than ask everyone to buy presents for 13 other individuals, each couple drew another couple’s name out of the hat.

And your objective is to then get a gift for the couple to do something relationally, like a great date activity

Like go to a Timberwolves’ game 

Or go on a great date downtown

Or to go ice-skating at the Depot and then to their favorite restaurant.

If we’re going to spend, let’s be willing to give relationally (like Jesus) not just materialistically

So instead of getting your daughter American Girl Doll #12, buy her tickets to a play she’d want to go to…and go with…and take her to a special dinner beforehand.

That’s giving to bless in a more meaningful way.

Give the gift of availability

Our culture, for years has mocked the straw man of the business man who’s never around, but buys his kids love with presents from the airport

I swear there are a million movies with this plot where the moral is: All they want is time with you!

And yet, aren’t we doing the same every December

We try and show our kids we LOVE them by giving them gadgets and clothes.

Listen, I’m on not saying you need to unwrap 100% of your presents currently under the tree and start over…but as Christians, let’s try and live this monumental Christian holiday differently

There are ways to even give even material gifts without giving mindlessly.

I think of my son, Jeremiah.

His favorite thing in the world right now, is to get in a homemade fort with me and say, “here comes the Tiger! Lets’ hide daddy!”

And so for Christmas, we’re getting him this fort making toy where you can take poles in make all sorts of different shaped forts really fast.

He’ll love it, and we can, as father and son, play together up close.

It’s more relational than it is, “here’s a video game you can play in the dark by yourself”

If you’re a go-getter, and you’ve already got most of your shopping done, and yet you’re going, “I wish I heard this 3 weeks ago…”

Don’t be afraid to bring some gifts back, so you can do December differently this year.

As I say all the time, “Don’t sit here on Sundays and say, ‘That’s a good idea.”

Say, “I’m going to do that”

And do it…even if it’s hard.

Even if it’s meaning unwrapping a gift and bringing it back

Find a way to give someone a relational gift this year…give yourself, like God gave of himself.

If there’s a toddler through teenager in your family (whether your own kid or a grandkid), maybe get tickets to the museum, to a sporting event, a day-trip, a fishing trip, golfing outing, dinner, you name it.

For the adult in your family, give them something significant.

Like here’s a cool example.

This week, I just visited Wilderness Fellowship for a day (it’s the prayer cabins in Wisconsin that we have brochures for in the hallway)

The cabins are amazing! And they’re only $45 a night, $60 if you go as a couple.

If you want, you can even buy a gift card for there, and get your sibling, or maybe your parent (parents), a night away to retreat with God.

That’s not just SPENDING to SPEND, that’s Giving to BLESS!

That’s the model of God at Christmas


let’s take a look at the 3rd principle

#1: Spend Less

#2: Give Relationally

#3: Give to Those in Need

Each of those previous steps gets us closer to the meaning of Christmas, but this one gets us the closest.

If we really want our giving to emulate what God did (give what he had to bless others), this is as about as close as we can get.

And this should be close to our heart as Christians.

Look at the description of the early church in the Book of Acts

(Acts 4:32) – NIV

32 All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had.

So let me propose something to you.

What if…this year…rather than just spending to spend…what if you gave 20% of what you normally were going to spend on gifts to bless someone who could really benefit from a gfit?

Listen, it’s nice if my family member gets me a new pair of headphones.

I’m not sure I’m “blessed” by it though

And I’m sure I’d be fine with out

But we have an opportunity as believers to BLESS people this Christmas.

And remember, you’re going to have more money to give away anyway because you’re going to spend less to begin with

What if you took 20% and really helped someone?

If you were going to spend $800, 20% is $160

If you were going to spend $500, 20% is $100

Let me give you a few examples of how you could take that 20% and give to those in need:

Maybe there’s a family you know that could just use an anonymous gift?

Maybe even someone from church?

Maybe you get your House Leader or someone else to anonymously pass on some much needed finances to them?

Maybe you think about sponsoring a child this Christmas…so they can get education and food.

Look up our Haiti partner World Wide Village if you’re interested.

Or, Every year we take a special offering for our projects in Haiti in January…maybe you set money aside to help the impoverished there.

You could donate to the local Food Shelf, CEAP. That’s

Or here’s one I might recommend:

What if you sat down together, with your family (and kids if you have them), and you started to talk about how at Christmas, Jesus came to bless us, so we want to bless others.

Then, what you could do is go online to:


Compassion International is an amazing Christian organization whose mission is “releasing children from poverty in Jesus’ name”

And they have a great Christmas catalog…except it’s not full of toys and DVD’s

For $100, you can get a family, say in Africa, a goat…

A goat that will not only provide them with milk, but with more sustainable income as that goat has more goats and they can sell for future income

For $42 you can buy chickens, so a family can have a steady source of protein and eggs to sell in the market

For $40 you can send kids to the dentist…often for the first time

For $79 you can give a family safe water for life…giving them a water filtration system and more.

I mean, what if you sat down, as a family and did that?

And you talked about how Jesus gave himself to the world at Christmas, and so we want to give to the world too…and that’s what Christmas is all about.

See, that’s an object lesson that’ll actually help your kids better understand Christmas.

Rather than, “Hi kids…Jesus came on Christmas, and because of that, here’s a remote control car for YOU!”

You and I can’t even connect the dots on that one, let alone a 7-year-old


Just as I challenged you last week to find a way to do your activities differently, I want you to muster up the courage to find a way to do gifts differently this year.

Don’t just spend to spend, give to bless.

Spend Less

Give relationally

Give to those in need.

This year…bless some people with a gift that has impact, not a gift that no one will remember in 12 months.

Listen, no one’s going to return their goat to Target.

No kid in Haiti is going to return their gift of education.

You can do this.

Try the 20% challenge.

I can pretty much guarantee that almost 20% of the gifts you gave last year, you were at a loss when you bought them.

That’s probably why you gave so many gift cards.

You can take that 20% and do it differently this year.

Spend that 20% differently and bring spiritual meaning to your giving this year.

And know that when you do, your giving is a blessing.

A blessing that has impact.

Let me close my message this morning by reading you another passage from 2 Corinthians where Paul talks about the IMPACT of people giving generously.

Let this sink in.

(2 Corinthians 9:12-15) – NIV

12 This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. 13 Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. 14 And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you. 15 Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!

You can make your Christmas different this year.

You can let the activities you do, and the gifts you buy actually reflect the real meaning of Christmas!

So don’t just spend to spend, give to bless.

Let me pray.

Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN

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