It is well known that divorce attorneys and marriage therapists are swamped with new business after the holidays. Christmas is a stressful time for couples, and domestic violence is the highest over the Christmas season.
It’s easy to get caught up in commercialism and superficial glitz of the holiday season that can negatively impact a marriage. We are celebrating the arrival of Jesus, but something else has taken over. Hanging lights on the house, decorating the Christmas tree, Christmas shopping, wrapping gifts, mailing Christmas cards, planning meals, baking cookies, entertaining guests, attending parties, there is an endless array of activities that take time—lots of time, and this can increase our stress levels in our marriage.
These activities can bring joy, laughter, fun, opportunities to witness, and desire to pour out love to those who are hurting. However, when all the projects and activities get out of balance we can lose perspective and ignore the most important relationship in our lives - our spouse.
We can learn a lot about how to handle the holiday pressure and abundance of activities from a couple of sisters found in Luke 10:38-42. They were also anticipating the arrival of Jesus yet each of them handled His arrival in a different way.
The Bible says that Martha was distracted by all the preparations of the gathering and meal. I think many of us can relate to Martha. I can just imagine Martha running around at the last minute, trying to make everything perfect for Jesus’ visit. Then, just when she thinks she has it all together, she realizes she is missing and important dinner piece. She jumps on her donkey, heads down to the local market, and buys some new material to match her elaborate centerpiece. By the time she arrives back home she is exhausted and actually a little angry. Ever feel that way during Christmas? If we over work, over give, and over spend we can become irritable and miss the peace and joy that this celebration brings.
So when Jesus walks in the door Martha immediately complains to Him and says “Don’t you care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself, tell her to help me”. When we are distracted with all the preparations of Christmas and exhausted from all the extra work, we can mistakenly start to believe that others don’t care and get angry. Many times we take out our frustration from our lack of boundaries on our spouse.
When all is said and done, did the extra time setting up the Christmas village really make a difference in the lives of the significant people in your life? Jesus told Martha “You are worried and upset about a lot of things”. If Jesus were to walk into your house during this Christmas season, would He say the same thing to you?
The first thing we can learn from Martha is to prioritize where to spend our time and where to let go. If you’re overly committed and involved this can build up, overflow and hurt your loved ones. Choose wisely how to spend your time and consider your partner in sharing the workload. Sharing equal amounts of responsibility leaves time for the two of you to share a hot chocolate by the fire or enjoy a movie together later in the evening. Planning, cooking the meals, and buying and wrapping the gifts are too much for one person. This has potential to build resentment for one partner that could back fire later. Discuss the division of labor between you and share the load!
Planning and preparation is a good thing, however, when the hustle and bustle of the holiday season interferes with connection and deepening relationships then we may have to readjust our priorities. Choose to say “No” to some “good” things to focus your limited time and energy on better things. In Luke 10 Jesus said to Martha, “Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her”.
Cut yourself some slack. Lower your expectations. Reduce your activities. Our real homes were not meant to look like houses on the commercials. Give yourself permission to avoid perfection. Remember, Jesus was born in a stall in a barn. He came into this world in a place filled with simplicity. Focus on the things of the heart not the external.
Allen Haley, M.Div., P.C.
Terri Haley, M.F.T