"Remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive'" (Acts 20:35).

GAINESVILLE, Ga. (BP)--Sometimes Christmas looms so large, it's as if there's a law requiring new gifts to be wrapped and placed under the tree before sunrise on Dec. 25. This pressure can be great, but it is often self-imposed. If this has not been a good year financially, be honest and do something simple -- less expensive but no less extraordinary.

Taking on debt and stress to give a gift that can wait is not the best way. We all want to have a memorable Christmas and show love and appreciation to others, but don't buy into the credit card advertisement that putting a purchase on the card will be "priceless." It might be "grossly overpriced" or "too great a price after the interest charged" to justify making that special memory.

There are times when you really want to give or feel it is important to give, but simply are not able. This is when some of your most extraordinary gifts might be given.

One year, I did not have the money to buy presents for all of those I love. I especially wanted to give a small gift to the financial partners who had so generously supported me when I first joined the Crown staff.

But funds were low, our savings account was thin, and a Christmas party in which small gifts would be exchanged was fast approaching. I was uncomfortable receiving gifts from these dear friends without giving something in return. I remember how hard it was to even think about showing up and receiving but having nothing for them.

I asked the Lord for wisdom. Now don't forget the opening verse of this article; I do agree with the Lord and love to give. So here I was, in ministry, receiving from others and unable to give a small gift to them at Christmas. I remember feeling the frustration of being without the resources I thought I needed. It was then that the Lord gave me an idea: Give each person you care for at the Christmas party a verse of Scripture.

Well, it may have sounded odd to write a verse inside a card and give it as a gift, but I prayed and asked God to show me in His Word a special verse that would really encourage each individual. When I gave the cards to each person and shared the verses God had shown me for them, each person was touched. To this day, most of them remember the verse I shared with them. I, too, remember the experience as if it was more precious than anything I could have ever purchased.

Another idea comes from a family member who will occasionally give Ann and me a gift without spending any money. The gifts we receive are family heirlooms from their own possessions. These items are not expensive treasures but indications of their love for us and their desire that we have something that they truly valued. We have always appreciated these special gifts and look forward to the unique surprise they represent each year.

Another way to avoid the shopping frenzy is to obtain a picture of the gift you want to give from a catalog or the Internet. Then, place the photograph in a card and say, "Merry Christmas, this is your present as soon as you (or we) can find it in the after Christmas sales! Happy shopping!"

The greatest gift you can give your family or friends, whether you can buy gifts or not, is to fill their lives with love and joy. And most of all, remind your loved ones that the most extraordinary gift has already been freely given. Christ Jesus, our Savior, has given us Himself. He is the most extraordinary gift you can ever receive or share. Rejoice and be glad!

Dec. 17, 2010

(c) 2010 Baptist Press. Used with permission. All rights reserved.

Chuck Bentley is CEO of Crown Financial Ministries and host of Crown's MoneyLife radio broadcast. A version of this article was originally published in the December 2007 edition of Money Matters. Questions or comments? Go to Crown.org and click "Ask Chuck" on the home page. Cofounded by Howard Dayton and the late Larry Burkett, Crown Financial Ministries (Crown.org) is an interdenominational ministry dedicated to equipping people with biblically based financial tools and resources through radio, film, seminars, small groups and individual coaching. Based in Georgia, the ministry has offices in the United States, Canada, Latin America, and Africa, Europe, India, Asia and Australia.