Over the phone, my wife was offered a $775 certificate for a cemetery plot. The next day a man with a briefcase arrived, handing her the nontransferable certificate, with the statement, “You have to use this within fifteen days!”

We all become upset when we discover we’ve been lied to, that we’ve been deceived. And once again, it’s that time of year, time for the “deceptions of December!”

It even goes with the original Christmas story. A year or two after Jesus had been born, wise men from the East came, following a mysterious star in the night.

While arriving in Jerusalem, they lost sight of the star. They stopped by the palace to check with the king for, surely, he would know where the Christ Child was.

Scripture tells us, “Then Herod, when he had secretly called the wise men, determined from them what time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, ‘Go and search carefully for the young Child, and when you have found Him, bring back word to me, that I may come and worship Him also.’” (Matthew 2:7-8)

King Herod had deceived the wise men. He didn’t intend to worship the Christ Child. As a matter of fact, he ordered all male children under the age of two to be put to death in order to assure the demise of Jesus!

Lots of deception was part of that first Christmas and even part of our Christmases today …

1. We can be deceived by the gifts of Christmas. The magi brought gifts to the Christ Child, gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. (Matthew 2:11)

These presents were not necessarily expensive, but they were the best! Gold was the appropriate gift for a king. Frankincense was the perfect present for a high priest. Myrrh was an embalming spice, a gift that would claim Christ to be our Savior.

Too often we’re deceived into thinking our Christmas giving must be an expensive ordeal.

2. We can be deceived by the glitter of Christmas. We read in Luke 2:11 that the first Christmas was very simple: No lights, no tinsel, no garland.

As a matter of fact, the Scripture pictures some smelly sheepherders and animals huddled around a baby in a cave. There wasn’t even a crib, but a donkey’s feeding trough served the purpose.

Some think Christmas is all about the tree and its trimmings, when it’s really all about Him.

3. We can be deceived by the guests of Christmas. Chapter 2 in both Luke and Matthew speak of shepherds and wise men, but the focus was never on them – it was always on Jesus!

There are people today who won’t even put up a tree if certain ones aren’t home for the holiday! Whether the kids come or not, it’s still Christmas! It’s still His Birthday! Let’s celebrate!

4. We can be deceived by the gladness of Christmas. Luke tells of an angel who made an exciting announcement to the shepherds: “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.” (Luke 2:10)

Then verse 20 tells us that after visiting the Baby Jesus, the shepherds returned with a contagious joy in their hearts!

I like the way the Message translates, “the sheepherders let loose!” They couldn’t contain their joy! We know Christmas is to be a joyous time, but we realize a pandemic is still on.

There may be an empty chair at the table this year. I lost both my parents two years apart at Christmastime. How do we rejoice when we’re missing our loved one? Only by remembering what the joy is all about – Jesus!

5. Finally, we can be deceived by the ghosts of Christmas. Some keep their eyes on the past! “We don’t celebrate like we used to!” “That’s not the way to sing that carol!” “What happened to the traditional pageant?”

We compare to the Christmases of yesterday, hanging on to the ghosts of Christmas past! Christmastime has room for only one ghost – the Holy Ghost! (Matthew 1:20)

Don’t be deceived this year by the “deceptions of December.” Let’s focus our attention on the Babe of Bethlehem.

The Rev. Danny Goddard is senior pastor at New Castle First Church of the Nazarene. He is a regular contributor to the Faith Perspective column.