It’s supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year… that is if your marriage is running on all cylinders. But what if it isn’t? Are you dreading the holidays?
The Ghost of Christmas Past
Close your eyes and think back to your childhood Christmases. Do you smile or cringe?
If you smiled, what made them good? The people? The trappings? The food? The smells? Do you long to recreate Christmas past, but your spouse opposes you?
If you cringed, was there a lot of pain that you try to avoid or are you now trying to overcompensate with your new family?
The Danger Zone
When we marry, we each bring suitcases full of expectations about how life should look or not look based upon our family of origin. These suitcases should be labeled “Danger: May contain hazardous materials.” They may be full of bad experiences you want to bury and/or expectations of what life “should” look like.
Picture these suitcases under your tree on Christmas morning. They often have trigger locks which ignite a bomb if any action, smell or feel of Christmas reminds the owner of a painful past.
On the contrary, the good ones get opened and displayed as the gospel of how to celebrate Christmas. Any deviation from the sights and sounds of Christmas Past and … boom! Disappointment ectoplasm covers any chance for a joyful season.
Got a blended family? Move over gifts, suitcases overtake the day leaving little room for Jesus.
The Ghost of Christmas Present
How you “do” the holidays may prepare the way, not for the Lord, but for battles and resentment. Consider celebration options.
- Will you have a Jesus-centered Christmas, spending purposeful time meditating on who he is and focusing the Christmas story?
- Will you go to church as a family for services?
- How much will you spend on Christmas decorations?
- Will you throw parties or have extended family or friends over for meals?
- Will you serve alcohol?
- Will you go to relatives or have them over for the holidays?
- Who are you buying presents for and what is your budget?
Who makes these decisions? How did you do them when you were growing up?
The Power Play
Will you make holiday decisions consciously or unconsciously? Will you make them together or independently? Will you usurp your spouse if they disagree? Will you passively assent against your desires and resent them for it?
Every marriage has competing “powerdigms.” No, this is not in the dictionary, but just as a paradigm is the glasses through which you view the world, a powerdigm is how you react to other people’s power or lack thereof. The trouble occurs at the intersection of the couple’s powerdigms.
As Solomon said, “There is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9). Powerdigms start with freewill and have played out since the Garden of Eden. In Genesis 3:5, Satan said to Eve, “God knows that your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat it, and you will be like God, knowing both good and evil.”
Eve wanted the greater power. So, what did she do?
“The woman was convinced. She saw that the tree was beautiful and its fruit looked delicious, and she wanted the wisdom it would give her. So she took some of the fruit and ate it. Then she gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it, too” (Genesis 3:6).
The greatest power play of all time. Eve grabbed for power from God with no apparent discussion with Adam. Don’t miss this – Eve thought it was for a good cause (like celebrating Christmas a certain way). Adam’s excuse? Maybe he just wanted to keep the family peace, even though God had told him alone – before Eve was created – the rule of the trees. Who did Adam perceive held the greater power … God or Eve?
Lesson 1 – Grabbing power without spousal agreement (not just assent) is a recipe for disaster.
Lesson 2 – Assenting to your spouse’s power without true agreement leads to bitterness and life in the wilderness.
Successful marriages are born from two people who:
- Actively listen to one another
- Hold the other’s wants and desires in high esteem
- Respect their spouses
- Look for “Us” solutions
In the case of celebrating the holidays, recognize your past – the good and bad. Consider other options. Set a budget together that honors God and focuses on the true meaning of Christmas. Try new things. Anything is possible.
How you celebrate his coming can be as simple as reading the account of Jesus’ birth from Luke on Christmas morning over a bowl of Cheerios or as elaborate as performing the lead in the First Baptist Christmas pageant, winning the award from the Sun Sentinel for greatest home decorations, buying everything your family wanted for Christmas, inviting the city to your house to celebrate Christmas dinner early so you can make a pilgrimage to Israel to celebrate Christmas day in Bethlehem.
There is no perfect way to celebrate Christmas … no Ten Commandments for the proper execution of the holy days. There is only you, your spouse and Jesus who form the ordained marital trinity. The choice is yourS … yes, with a capital “S” at the end = Us.
May your Christmas be filled with the joy of his coming.
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Patricia Hartman, CPA is the owner of Patricia Hartman, CPA, PA, a forensic and tax accounting practice, where she has worked with hundreds of divorcing clients. She is the author of “The Christian Prenuptial Agreement” available at www.ChristianPrenuptial.com. She is the president of South Florida Word Weavers and a board member of Living Water Christian Counseling.