We have had eleven calls from spouses in the last week, asking for help for their marriage. In fact, December has always been our busiest month of the year. WHY? Where is the JOY in Christmas?

1. There are unrealistic expectations. Marriages are falling apart; one is checking into the behavioral health clinic, another is calling an attorney, another is stalking a husband who is cheating. Meanwhile they are concerned their kids won’t have presents under the tree, be able to attend all the concerts in the area, or make it to the New Year’s Eve celebration in NYC.

2. There is more focus on the presents than His Presence. One person in full-time ministry recently shared they have no free evenings from now until Christmas. Not a single evening to connect with each other. There are too many parties to attend; too many obligations. Yet we put more emphasis on the obligations than our loved ones.

3. There is too much pain associated with Christmas. A friend loses her loved one to suicide. A young wife says goodbye to her military husband who is deploying the day after Christmas. Another spends the holidays having chemo treatments. We do not address the pain; we mask it with the glitter of a day of expectations instead of expectancy.

Why not focus on your relationship — you know, the marriage that is supposed to reflect God’s unconditional love for His people? Attend one concert, one party, or one family dinner, and then spend the rest of your time TOGETHER. Let your Christmas present be an overnight away from the glitter and forget purchasing presents that will be recycled on ebay. Have a “no presents” holiday and celebrate with your favorite dish, Christmas carols, and a spirit of thankfulness. Have an evening talking about the pain of previous years, and wrap the “pain” in a Christmas box and lay it at the foot of the Cross. God never promised us a life free of pain, He promised He would always be with us. So celebrate His love for us, and look for the joy in the heart of a child, a homeless man who is warm because of your gift of a coat, or a husband who smiles because his wife is by his side. Stop celebrating Christmas with glitter, and start celebrating with joy. Where does the joy come from? It comes from inside your heart, because you choose Jesus instead of stuff.

Cindy and David Southworth are marriage and relationship coaches, certified through the American Assn of Christian Counselors and members of the International Christian Coaching Assn. Cindy is a John Maxwell certified speaker, trainer, and coach. They are the owners of Breakwater Coaching. You can visit their website at www.breakwatercoaching.com.

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