It was Christmas Eve 1993, and I was home from graduate school to celebrate the season with my family. I was so disappointed when my three sisters all went to bed early. We usually stayed up late playing games, watching movies and sharing sister secrets. Reluctantly, I went to bed around 10:30.
I was abruptly awakened around midnight by my family putting on a play of sorts, re-enacting funny dating memories between my boyfriend, Mike, and me. I couldn't help but wonder if I was dreaming or if this family play was really happening. Then my mom, who was playing me, said, "My favorite memory of all was Christmas 1993, when …" Just then, Mike came in through my balcony with roses and a ring and asked me to marry him.
Our engagement story is probably the last romantic memory I have of Christmas. Ever since we tied the knot, the holiday season has often been filled with the busyness of shopping, cooking and entertaining. Christmas romance seems to be for those who are dating and not for the busy couple with children.
More common than expressions of love between husband and wife are arguments about how much to spend on gifts and with which family they should eat turkey. But just like the credit card bill and the extra calories, many marriages have a day of reckoning in January when they're faced with cleaning up after the conflicts of the holiday rush.
Perhaps the best gift you can give each other this holiday season is the gift of grace. Extending grace begins with intentionally communicating and praying together. Talk about your expectations, anxieties and hopes for this holiday season. Discuss what you want the calendar and bank balance to look like through November and December.
Maybe it's time to begin a new holiday tradition of celebrating Christmas and Thanksgiving together — not just in the same room, but really together. Consider a Thanksgiving date where you write each other a letter of gratitude. For Christmas, exchange gifts privately, and for New Year's, try a celebration for just the two of you — no party crowds, no kids.
The beauty of Christmas can be found in remembering the amazing love and grace that came to the world wrapped in the gift of Jesus. Isn't it unfortunate that the holidays have become the time of year when we are least prone to extend love and grace to each other? As you reflect on the birth of Jesus, put His love into practice with the most significant person in your life.
This article first appeared in the November/December 2010 issue of Thriving Family magazine and was titled "Navigating Holiday Expectations. Copyright © 2010 Focus on the Family. ThrivingFamily.com.
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