LOVE CAME DOWN AT CHRISTMAS
Christina Georgina Rossetti
Love came down at Christmas,
Love all lovely, love divine;
Love was born at Christmas,
Star and angels gave the sign.
Worship we the Godhead,
Love incarnate, love divine;
Worship we our Jesus:
But wherewith for sacred sign?
Love shall be our token,
Love shall be yours and love be mine,
Love to God and to all men,
Love for plea and gift and sign.
The festivities of the Christmas season are upon us. As a couple, we vow to each other that we will not get caught up in the busyness which surrounds this season and focus on love. Love in the form of the Christ child, God incarnate and the gift given to us. The gift of agape love. How can we receive and hold tight to this precious gift of love and share it with our spouse, our family, and others?
Accept the Gift
Our first obligation is to accept the gift so freely given. In Luke’s gospel, Mary is visited by the angel Gabriel and informed that she is highly favored and will give birth to God’s son. When Joseph found out Mary’s situation, he did not react. Rather, he took time that allowed God’s purpose for him to be understood. Joseph took Mary as his wife. Both Mary and Joseph accepted the gift which God had brought before them. How different this story could have been if either one of them resisted the scenario presented to them. This was not what they had planned. What would others think? Would Mary’s life end tragically due to these circumstances? Praise God, this wasn’t their story! Their lives were one of righteousness and dedication to Yahweh, therefore God’s love was accepted.
Receive the Gift
This leads us to the question: are we prepared to receive the gift of agape love which is poured out through Christ? Our trust and faith in God enable us to understand a love which is not conditional, rather is freely given. “God so loved the world that he gave his only son…” On our faith journey we have learned to recognize that interruptions or unexpected detours in our lives are opportunities to demonstrate love. We can respond in a manner which builds up relationships, first and foremost with our spouse. Unfortunately, studies reflect that Christmas is a time in which many couple arguments increase. This is often due to financial and relational burdens which surround this time of year. One study of 3,000 couples found that 20% were dreading the holidays and 23% were considering a separation.
Letting Go of Expectations
The concept of releasing our expectations about what Christmas will look like once married may be difficult. Our perspective of Christmas is based on past experiences and expectations. Studies have concluded that our childhood interactions with our family of origin carry-over into our adult relationships. For example, race and cultural differences increased the level of stress in marriage especially during holidays. Other studies indicate that marriages are more successful when a couple experienced childhoods with positive interactions.
Will and I (Cindy) came from such different family backgrounds. Christmas was always a stressful time for us. We didn’t live close to family most of our life while the children were growing up, so our celebration became a melding of our different life experiences. Will’s family included grandparents. Gift-giving was limited and food was always the focus of the day, after church service. I, on the other hand, experienced stress due to my parent’s dysfunctional relationship. They did decorate the home and bake dozens of cookies, but the concept of “all is calm” relationally was lacking. There were even times when my father would leave for a few days. No wonder we were unclear how to celebrate Christmas. Praise God that once we dedicated our lives to Christ, we developed a new perspective about Christmas. There continued to be different ideas on how to celebrate, how much to spend, and how to make Christmas special for our children. However, our desire was to honor our spouse with love and respect. We began to be better listeners and support our spouse’s ideas even when we weren’t in complete agreement. That’s what can happen when the Holy Spirit enters into our lives and we allow Him to do a work. With Christ as our example, we can offer the greatest gift of all to our spouse and loved ones, that of loving unconditionally!
We have found that when we entered into a new life in Christ, we began to surrender old attitudes with accompanied behaviors which negatively impacted our marriage. Like us, you and your spouse were probably raised differently. If your home of origin was strong with both parents demonstrating love and respect, then your perspective will be totally different from someone who hasn’t experienced that foundational love. You may have grown up with different traditions or cultural perspectives when it comes to celebrating Christmas. The good news, at Christmas and always, is that Christ demonstrated sacrificial love. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we can do the same! (check out this blog)
Before you go further into the holidays, we propose doing the following:
- Have a date night in which you discuss what you envision for Christmas plans and pray about it!
- Discuss your past Christmas experiences in childhood and now as a couple.
- Choose a Christmas devotional for you and your spouse to do together.
- Demonstrate to your family the true meaning of Christmas by receiving and giving God’s gift of love!
Check out our podcast with more on this topic here!