The Christmas Friends’ Contract: An Alternative for Doing Good

Every year in October and November, Gallup asks Americans how much they plan to spend on Christmas gifts. This year, the report is $786 per person. The highest year in recent memory was 2008 when we projected $866 per person.

The National Retail Federation projects total American gift expenditures will be right around $600 billion in 2013. (Depressingly, only about 4% of the national debt.)

Lest you think this is another post lamenting the ever-expanding materialism of Christmas, I have no problem with these facts.



Oh sure, Christmas isn’t how I would design it in American culture. On the other hand, I can think of many many worse expenditures the typical American makes than buying Christmas gifts. Second, I love the fact that the celebration of the birth of the Savior still is the most important holiday in our culture. (And America’s favorite, no matter what research you consult.) I love the fact that, as they do their holiday shopping, people must come to grips – quietly or not, intentionally or not – with where they stand on Jesus Christ.

I also have a hunch that Christmas is the one time of year when some Americans actually hear a clear presentation of the Gospel, especially since more Americans celebrate Christmas than Easter.

I love the opportunity Christmas provides to share the love of Christ. Yes, there is too much shopping, but there is also the thought of people, while they shop, singing along to:

Long lay the world in sin and error pining
‘Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth


Jesus, to thee be glory given;
Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing


He rules the world with truth and grace.

Despite all of this, I also acknowledge that there must be a better way to spend our money at Christmas than to purchase all of the gifts we do. I’m especially thinking about those “secondary” Christmas gifts.

I think you already know what I mean.

If a “primary” Christmas gift is one given to a spouse, parent, child or other close family member, we all probably also purchase “secondary” gifts. These are normally given to close friends we won’t spend Christmas with, distant relatives, co-workers, acquaintances, etc. Some might even be described as obligatory. Not exactly a festive holiday word.

In this post, it’s that first group of “secondary” gift recipients I’m writing about. These are friends you’ve known for a long time, you may get together or do lunch around the holidays, but you won’t likely be together on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, unless you run into each other at church. You love each other and always manage to exchange Christmas gifts, but you really don’t need to.

In fact, what if you didn’t? What if you used the money you would spend on each other to, instead, bless someone you don’t know?

That’s the Christmas Friends Contract.

Here’s how you do it.

  • Send the link to this post to the friend or friends with whom you’d like to enter into a contract and invite them to enter into a Christmas Friends Contract with you.
  • Make an agreement to the following for Christmas:
    • You will not exchange Christmas gifts this year.
    • You will send each other a Christmas card in which you write a short note explaining why you appreciate their friendship and a theme Scripture verse you will pray for that friend in the coming year.
    • You will take the money you would have spent on the gift (without disclosing that figure to anyone) and split it in two.
    • Half the money will go to your local church’s general fund.
    • The other half will go to support a ministry that works to meet the needs of a group to which Jesus specifically reached out. (Some suggestions follow.)

Children (Matthew 19:14)
Jesus had a special place in His heart for little children. So you might give to:

Operation Christmas Child/Samaritan’s Purse

The Salvation Army

Toys for Tots

Metro World Child

The Poor (Matthew 6:1-4, Luke 4:16-21)

Find a family you know is struggling for Christmas and anonymously send them the money in the form of cash or a gift card. Or, choose a local mission to help.


The Salvation Army

Compassion International

World Help

The Suffering (Luke 4:16-21, Luke 17:11-19)

International Justice Mission

Invisible Children

The Red Cross

Prison Fellowship

Of course you can also pair up with your friend and do a holiday season project together. But, to keep it simple, you agree not to exchange gifts, send a meaningful Christmas card, calculate the amount you would have given, give half to your local church’s general fund, and half to help a special group to which Jesus attended.

It may not be a lot of money, but it matters. And it might just make your season brighter.