Christmas at our house is always a much-anticipated event. We put our tree up a little earlier than is socially acceptable, and we rock out to various carols and songs in our house and our car, at church, and while baking. We love Christmas, and while I’m always a fan of the word simplify, I’m also a fan of making things a big deal that are a big deal, and Jesus’ birth—it’s a big deal.
Rewind a bit . . . The other night, my husband and I took a much-needed break from work and driving children to and fro for activities, and had date night with our friends. While we were driving to “the city” (because that’s what you do when you live in the rural area for date night!), I absently asked our friend if he and his wife were getting each other Christmas gifts.
He responded with the predictable married life story of how they hadn’t really decided yet, but were debating between something that needed to be done on their house or paying off some bills.
“Yep,” I reiterated, “we haven’t decided yet either. We usually at least put chocolate in each other’s stockings. And socks. Getting new socks are a standard part of our Christmas.”
The conversation moved on to other things, and we had a great evening of talking, sharing, and laughing.
The next day, while looking at the men’s sock section in Marshall’s, the conversation replayed in my head. Why is it that every year it’s anybody’s guess whether we’ll get each other a present? a single gift? Why is it that we plan and organize and strategize, saving up funds and hiding away presents, to make sure our children have a stellar Christmas, but it’s a toss-up whether we’ll get something, even something miniscule, for each other at Christmas?
Don’t get me wrong, our Christmases aren’t loaded with presents and bulging with gluttonous gift giving. We aren’t wrapped up in all things material; we haven’t lost the real meaning. But we have managed to ignore an opportunity that I think God may be presenting to us to honor our marriage. We think we are sacrificing what we want or need so that our children can have a few special items, but what we’ve really done is send them a message: “You matter more than our marriage.”
Yikes! Maybe it sounds a bit harsh, but finances speak their own language. And when we pour all of our resources into tiny people and put nothing toward each other, we can end up sending a message we never intended. Living intentionally can be exhausting to some extent, just thinking about all the messages we give and receive in families, but living intentionally is never more important than in your marriage.
In 1 Corinthians 11:1–2, Paul exhorts the Corinthians:
“Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ. Now I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I delivered them to you.”
Paul asks the Corinthians outright to do what he does. He recognizes his role as a model to these precious people whom God has entrusted to him. In parenting, we not only teach our children with words, but we act as models of who God is and how His people live out His love and forgiveness in a broken and fallen world. Our children, and anyone in our lives for that matter, may see divorce running rampant around them in our culture, but they truly see what marriage is and can be through us. Paul even mentions maintaining the traditions that he has passed on to them. Christmas gifts, and whom we give them to, are certainly a tradition we can pass down to our children intentionally. A small gift to our spouse says to our husband or wife, and to our children, “I think of you. You matter. Our marriage matters enough to take the time and a bit of our resources to honor each other today.”
“We have no extra money to spare.”
“We don’t really need anything.”
“My spouse’s love language is not gifts. They couldn’t care less.”
Any or all of these things may be true. But just as Christ gives us His good gifts, we all feel treasured and loved by simple acts of inclusion. Maybe it is just chocolate in a stocking or, for that matter, a notecard that says, “I love you with all my heart, you hunk of burning love, you!” This act builds up. This act spurs on love in our marriage relationship and in our lives to those around us. This is seen by our children, by those near us, and most of all by a God working in our hearts and marriages every day.
So, this Christmas, consider spending a little extra time on your marriage. Put the hot cocoa on and watch a Christmas movie together. Buy your husband or wife an Advent calendar to enjoy some treats, just like the kiddos. Start an Advent devotion with the Everyday Faith calendar for the month. And take a moment, buy a small item, and wrap it with prayer and tender loving care to share with your spouse this Christmas morning.