It’s sad to think that Christmas is something that many people just try to “survive.” But it’s true! For many people it’s a time, which reveals how sad their situation is in comparison to how others live. For them, their task is just surviving Christmas without emotionally falling apart. That’s especially true this year when everything is “uncertain” (to say the least)!
We don’t know if you are just surviving Christmas this year. Perhaps you’ve had a very difficult, tearful year. If so, please know that our hearts cry with yours as we pray for you. We know that God is crying with you too! After all, Christ came to this earth to save us from that, which makes people cry—the effects of sin! Sadly, we live in a fallen world riddled with sin, so it’s sometimes difficult to do much celebrating.
On this note, however, we want to share some important things with you. We’re hoping they will help you to move from just surviving to joining in on the celebration.
The first thing is something that is written in a Christmas card we received several years ago. The front of the card reads, “Only a few heard the music when He arrived.” And then the inside of the card says, “BUT THE CELEBRATION WILL BE DEAFENING WHEN HE RETURNS!” It gives us chills just thinking about that glorious celebration! This gives us all the more incentive to start celebrating now.
And yet for those of you who are suffering, celebrating could be the last thing you want to do. For that reason, we’d like to share with you several additional thoughts. Here are a few:
– When you think about surviving Christmas, focus on keeping it simple.
“Take a breath, but make it a grateful one for the way God changed this world forever when He sent Jesus. He’s not responsible for any chaos some feel prone to accept. He wants you to remember Who He is and why He came.” (Debbie Goodwin)
This will help you/us to relax. It’s not about us, and all we can accomplish this (or any) Christmas season. It’s about Christ. Focus on celebrating Christ in ways that puts Him and His ways first.
– Ask God how to celebrate Christ’s birth in purposeful, loving, and non-chaotic ways.
“Today we are asking questions about what these strange times mean, what we are waiting for, and what will happen when this great cloud lifts. We are troubled. Remember that the angel did not leave Mary troubled. He left her favored, held, loved, strengthened, and called for a special purpose. If you are troubled today, don’t just throw yourself into Christmas chaos; keep listening so that the message God has for you today can take you to the next step.” (Debbie Goodwin, from her advent devotional thoughts, “What’s Troubling You”)
Listen to God, and pay attention to what God would have you do for your spouse and family that does not add additional chaos. Never lose sight of the love of Jesus.
Steve and I have simplified our Christmas decorating and expectations the last few years. But this year we have toned it down even more. Love—especially sharing the love of Christ is in the forefront of our thoughts. We continually focus on our blessings. Even in the midst of disappointments we ask God to help us to trust, and not get caught up in the negativity around us. It isn’t easy; but it is what we know God would have us do. We can always find blessings if we just look for them.
Finding Hope as you are Surviving Christmas
Next, we want to share something that is written by Anne Bercht. We believe there are many spouses that need to read this. (We shared this in a previous Marriage Message, but it bears repeating.) Anne knows the pain that spouses can feel at Christmas time. She and her husband Brian survived his extra-marital affair. It nearly destroyed their marriage. They were barely hanging onto their marriage when the Christmas season came upon them. She writes:
“Christmas is a painful time for many people. The media makes it worse with commercials showing happy families together in beautiful surroundings. In reality many people confess that the holidays are more of a high stress thing. It includes families and extended families getting their feelings hurt over disappointed expectations.
“In the early years of our marriage, Brian and I always had our biggest fights on special occasions. Finally one day, I recognized the pattern and realized the problem. Yes, it was actually me, not him. Imagine! I had such high expectations of wonderful celebrations. As a result not only did I stress everyone out, but I was doomed to disappointment, by the unrealistic expectations I had. I was trying to be like those people on the commercials.”
“Since then, I expect nothing from holidays. I go about in a relaxed manner and do what I can, and forget about the rest. As a result, we have wonderful holiday celebrations. Oh, we don’t have 40 different dishes served. We don’t have mounding presents under the tree, or perfect decorations. Sometimes the house isn’t even spotlessly clean. We don’t get along perfectly with extended family. But what we do have is fun. We’re relaxed, not expecting anything. And since then we’ve had the greatest holidays.
“The first Christmas after discovering my husband Brian’s affair, I was scared, because things were not going well at all. I was afraid that Christmas would be remembered as ‘the time mom and dad split up’ to our kids, and to us.
“So what Brian and I did during the holidays was to just ‘chill.’ I remember going to see my ‘Christian’ counselor one day who made the shocking statement that he thought our whole family needed to just sit around and smoke a joint. Of course he was kidding. But he was referring to the fact that we were all way too stressed out. We were trying too hard to fix everything too fast.”
Setting Aside Disappointments as you are Surviving Christmas
“So that’s what we did that Christmas. (No, we didn’t smoke a joint—we relaxed.) We put the affair and dealing with all of our disappointments in our marriage on hold. We decided to do our best to enjoy each others company. And we worked to remember what we had enjoyed about each other in all the good years of our marriage. We focused on the things that had attracted us to each other.
“Miraculously, we had a wonderful Christmas. We discovered that we really liked being together. This gave us a new hope to continue the hard work of rebuilding our marriage in the New Year.
“If you’re so sick of the whole season that you wish it would just go away, I suggest doing something totally different this year, like working for a charity [together, if possible]. Contact the Salvation Army or another similar organization and volunteer to cook. And/or serve Christmas dinner to the homeless. Or contact a local church or other community organization. Ask them if you can help put together and deliver Christmas baskets to those who need them. There are many who will go without, except for volunteers and generous hearts at Christmas.”
Doesn’t all of this go along with Jesus’ expectation of us?
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” (John 13:34)
As you are stretching yourself beyond just surviving Christmas, to thriving here are a few more tips:
– Let God lead you in your celebrations this year.
“The Lord is with you to lead you to a place where your heart can worship. It may not be in gathered places like before, but in simple stable form, where the surroundings are not like you have always known. This is where you let God fill the space with His presence before you expect that any added decoration or activity will make a bigger difference. This is the year of Simply Christmas. It is the year when you do things differently, but with a new purpose that gives space for God to add what He knows you need.” (Debbie Goodwin, from her advent devotional writing, “How are you making this season Simply Christmas?”)
Are you giving God the space He needs to change your heart and expectations?
“Perhaps it’s time to think with more than our emotional longings for some illusive vision we have about Christmas. Perhaps it’s time to start with our heart before we add one glittering ornament or ribboned wreath. We need to take a journey of the heart. We must remind ourselves of the meaning and the message if we want our Christmas to rise above the cacophony and chaos of our culture. It doesn’t just mean simplify; it means to determine that everything you do, every way you decorate, every gift you buy, every carol you sing takes you to Jesus and the reason He came.” (Debbie Goodwin, from her article, Make Way for Christmas!)
Here are two important questions to ask yourself: • Is what you’re doing drawing you closer to Christ, or pushing you farther away? • Are you focusing simply on Christ Jesus who can bring stability into your life beyond Christmas?
“As you prepare for the upcoming holy days, would you consider what your version of a “stable” Christmas could look like in 2020? It might be quite different than what you initially envisioned. But this is a year of different, so why not go with that theme? Whatever your plans, make sure Jesus is in the midst of the mess and mayhem. That way you can stay focused on the Savior who provides stability during every season of life.” (Dr Rebecca Wilke, from her article, Stable Christmas)
Jesus, who is our Prince of Peace, gives you this promise as you follow Him this Christmas and all year long:
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything. But in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:4-7)
What a promise! Oh, what a Savior!
Cindy and Steve Wright
To help you further, 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:
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