Increasing numbers of Americans are saying “Bah, humbug!” to the annual spend-fest that goes by the name of Christmas. A new survey finds that 45 percent would rather skip Christmas this year, saying they don’t have enough money to celebrate the holiday. According to Think Finance, a provider of payday loans, “Eight-five percent of those in this year’s survey plan to spend the same amount of money or less on gifts this year, with 54 percent planning to spend $500 or less.”

We Christians have fought long and hard to “keep Christ in Christmas,” but it has been a losing battle. When was the last time you heard businesses, schools, or advertisers actually use the word “Christmas” to describe their omnipresent “holiday” sales and programs? To which holiday might they be referring?

Yet even the manly blood coursing through the word “holiday” has been leeched out by the marketers. I’m far from the first to note that the word is a contraction of the word “holy day,” but now it means simply a day off from school or work. Our holidays are anything but holy, it seems. The secular society seems more interested in kneeling before the golden calf than before the livestock trough in Bethlehem.

So if we want to “keep Christ in Christmas,” it’s going to be up to us. That’s why I’m making the semi-heretical suggestion that we downsize the commercial aspects of the holy day even while we supersize the Christian ones. As Jesus said, we cannot serve God and mammon.

So how to begin? First, talk with loved ones about your desire to emphasize Christ rather than stuff this year. Come up with a mutually agreeable framework to scale back your gift-giving, decorating and “entertaining.” Yes, there will probably be some initial pain. But the long-term spiritual gain may well be worth it.

Second, take some of the money you will save and devote it to the kingdom of God. The Lord told us that where our treasure is, there are hearts will be also — so give it to him. No, Christmas isn’t all about money, either for Christians or for the nonreligious. You can celebrate this holy day either with a lot of money or with none at all. It’s not how much you spend, after all, but how much you love. But our spending is often a leading spiritual indicator, is it not?

And your giving can be doubly meaningful this year. The need for Christian generosity in this difficult economy remains great. ECFA (Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability) reports that giving to its 1,700 churches and other member nonprofits inched up by a paltry 1.8 percent in 2011 from the 2010 level, with many of the smaller ministries doing worse.Where you give is between you and God, but here are a few gentle suggestions to spark your prayerful thinking.

Your church. Many congregations and other ministries get a huge chunk of their annual donations at the end of the year. Why not make an extra gift to bless those who look after your soul every day? And if your church allows, you could designate your gift to ministries you especially care about — refugees, a soup kitchen, missionary support, a pastor’s getaway, etc.

Key issues. The Manhattan Declaration highlights three priority issues for Christians in the present time: preserving marriage, the sanctity of human life, and religious liberty. Among ministries that focus on these vital areas are Focus on the Family, the Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity, Care Net, and the Alliance Defense Fund. Or you could directly support the Manhattan Declaration.