Celebrating the Christmas season can be hard on relationships —particularly marriage. This may seem like a strange statement, but it’s true. You would think the opposite would be true. After-all, during the Christmas season you’re supposed to be celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ —”the Prince of Peace.” So your goal should be to bring… well, PEACE!
Remember, we are told:
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end…“ (Isaiah 9:6-7)
The birth of Christ is the time when God appeared in human form. As believers, we know that this is just the beginning of His “increase” in government, and every other way.
Yet as we celebrate His birth (the beginning of His “increase”) many of us mentally leave Christ in a type of manger setting where He isn’t powerful. We do this instead of inviting Him to increase and grow in our hearts —to live in and through us. (This should be true whether or not you celebrate Christ’s birth at Christmas, or another time in the year.)
This Christmas Season:
A good challenge for us is something that John the Baptist said, “I must decrease; He must increase.“ Is that how you are living your Christian life both inside and outside of your home? How about at Christmas? Isn’t it a time when we (and others) recognize and celebrate the birth of Christ? Some people don’t, that’s true. They say it’s because Jesus wasn’t literally born on December 25. And that’s true. But it is the time that most of the world celebrates His birth. And it’s a good time to be the light of Christ and celebrate Him with others.
And for that reason, celebrating Christmas can be hard on relationships. This is because:
- We most often try to do more than we can and should.
- We get so caught up in the actions of others that we forget to live out the principles of Christ.
- For some reason, we allow ourselves to say and do things that don’t reflect the heart of Christ.
- Plus, the Christmas season delivers so many ways for us to misplace our priorities.
To put our priorities in the right place we must never take CHRIST out of Christmas. How do we do this? What can we do to make the Christmas season a more peaceful one, which reflects the heart of Christ in our marriages, and in our homes?
Here’s a good tip to focus on and engraft into your everyday life:
• As God’s child, we’re told in God’s word that we are God’s Light within this world. We must live like it!
It is written in Matthew 5:14-16:
“You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16)
We forget that sometimes. But this is your reminder (and ours) to keep this concept in the forefront of our minds now and every day of the year. Christmas lights are nice, but we are the lights that God most wants to use as His light, pointing to Jesus.
Next, keep in mind as Christmas is being celebrated in the world and in our homes:
Starting with this Christmas season, lower your expectations of making everything so grand.
“Give yourself permission to avoid perfection like the plague. Remember, Jesus was born in a stall in a barn (cave). He came into this world in a place filled with the odors of any farm. He had no tree, no lights and no Christmas buffet.” (John Thurman)
That sure is a good reminder that puts it all in perspective
Don’t try to do more than you can and should.
Keep in mind: if you’re too busy to be kind, you’re too busy. We’re promised in the Bible that God will not give us more than we can handle. In the flurry of all that is going on, if you’re being unkind, then it could be that you’re doing more than you should. But how can you cut back when it looks like you have more to do than you have hours in the day? Pastor Kevin DeYoung gives this advice:
“Stop trying to do what God doesn’t expect you to do. Let go of any guilt you may be feeling about not doing more of whatever good Christian pursuits you think others do a better job of pursuing. This includes praying, giving, showing hospitality, evangelizing, reading the Bible, volunteering, etc. Keep in mind that God wants you to care about everything. But He doesn’t want you to try to do something about everything you care about, because that’s impossible with your limited time and energy.
“Remember that Jesus Himself didn’t do everything while He was on Earth. He focused only on what God asked him to do. Pray for the wisdom you need to discern which specific activities God is truly calling you to focus on. (Usually they are ones that you’re most interested in and can do well.) And ask God which ones you can let go of without feeling guilty.” (Pastor Kevin DeYoung)
This Christmas season and beyond:
Ask God to show you how you can simplify things so the “fruit of the Spirit” is lived out in how you interact with your spouse and others. Just in case you forgot:
“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.“ (Galatians 5:22-23)
Also, as far as relationships go, it’s true:
• Relationships can be messy, but be wise in how and when you choose to start straightening them out.
Counselor John Thurman (in his article, “Holiday Stress Tips”) gives this advice:
“Regardless of what your therapist says, the Christmas season is not about problem solving. Deal with family issues another time. (Make this a holy day.) You have to choose how you are going to feel. You don’t have to be a slave to old memories.
… “If you’re going to be spending a lot of time with family, be intentional about building in breaks from the family. The holidays can be a very special time for families to be together. But you don’t need to overdose.”
Here’s a bit more on this issue:
“Try not to resolve a family conflict during the holidays because it can then create all sorts of difficult memories for all the future holidays. You need to go directly to your in-laws [or parents]—maybe one-on-one. Get together, try to exchange some pleasantries. Go for a walk or at least be somewhere neutral without distractions. Look at your in-law(s) and just say, “I love your daughter (or your son).” Then add, “I want to wish you a merry Christmas. There may be some things that we could talk about after Christmas, but I just really wanted you to know that I love you and want to enjoy this time with us all together.” (Rosberg, from the article, In-Laws An Issue? Here’s What To Do About It)
(You can read even more about this approach by going into the link above.)
Additionally, this Christmas Season:
To the best of your ability, keep yourself out of places where victimizing conflict can occur. Many times there is safety in numbers. As I said in the last Marriage Insight, this is something I learned with a family member who just wasn’t safe to be with alone. My brother and I made a pact to watch over each other so neither of us would be alone with this individual. It helped greatly!
“Gather on neutral ground—meet at a place that belongs to no one. Include everyone that you can, and avoid posturing and fighting.” (John Thurman)
And if you need more insight on this issue, here’s some great advice from Scott Kedersha:
• “You don’t have to fight and argue over every, tiny, little, itty, bitty thing.”
Now, we know you aren’t the only one involved in those arguments. But as we’re told in the Bible, “As far as it be within you, be at peace with all.” Scott gives this insight on this matter:
“Maybe it’s the pressure of the holiday season, but for some reason, we’re more prone to argue and nitpick over the small things. This especially holds true with the ones we love the most. Whether it’s our favorite college football team, the way we cook the turkey, or when we open Christmas gifts, we can argue over anything and everything.
“The writer of Proverbs 19:11 says, ‘It is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.‘ This means sometimes we can simply overlook our differences. This doesn’t mean we ignore sin or tolerate someone harming us. But it does mean we can choose to look the other way. That’s especially true if it’s something small or related to a preference. In 1 Corinthians 13:7 we’re told, ‘love believes all things.‘ This means when we love someone, we choose to believe the best about them instead of assuming the worst. Believe the best and choose to overlook minor offenses. Your holidays will be much more enjoyable.” (From Scott’s article, “3 Ways to Communicate Your Way to a Merry Little Christmas”)
In whatever circumstances you find yourself:
• Look for ways you can be a blessing and bring the light of Christ to shine through in the darkness.
Do all “as unto the Lord.” Through this you are participating in His sufferings. You are also participating in God’s Kingdom work.
“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.“ (Hebrews 12:2-3)
This Christmas season and beyond:
• Don’t allow yourself to be dragged into or to become sinful in how you interact with others.
It’s difficult to live like this; we know this personally. But we must always remember what we’re told in Ephesians 4:29-32:
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.“
• Remember to do that, which is most important to God.
We’re told in Romans 14:19:
“Let us make every effort to do what leads to peace and mutual edification.“
As you are celebrating this Christmas season with your spouse and loved ones,
“Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. Give no offense to the Jews or to the Greeks or to the church of God. Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God…“ (1 Corinthians 10:31-32)
We pray you will poke holes in the darkness by the way you live together, letting God’s light shine through pointing to Christ.
We encourage you to do what you can to draw together with your spouse to glorify God. May it be so this Christmas season and throughout the year!
Cindy and Steve Wright
— ADDITIONALLY —
To help you, we give a lot of personal stories, humor, and more practical tips in our book, 7 ESSENTIALS to Grow Your Marriage. We hope you will pick up a copy for yourself. (It’s available both electronically and in print form.) Plus, it can make a great gift for someone else. It gives you the opportunity to help them grow their marriage. And who doesn’t need that? Just click on the linked title or the picture below to do so:
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