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More articles about marriage and family on's Christmas Celebration


Five Ways to Keep the 'Merry' in Christmas

By Bob and Yvonne Turnbull
Special to ASSIST News Service

CBN.comLA QUINTA, CA (ANS) -- It seems we just put the Christmas decorations away a couple of months ago and -- Bingo -- it’s time to put them up again!

Although this is a special time of year when we celebrate the birth of our Savior, have you noticed it can also be a time full of marital or family stress and conflict? To help the two of us not lose sight of the ‘reason for the season’ we agreed to be PROactive rather than REactive in the way we dealt with the holidays.

Here are five ways we suggest you consider keeping the "Merry" in Christmas:

1. Discuss Your Expectations

Conflict often occurs in families when expectations go unspoken. Talk about such things as to where you’re going to spend Christmas. Your house? Your Parents’ house? Your offspring? Your in-laws? If at your own abode are you inviting the relatives over or seeing them another day? If you’ve been going to your parents’ house for years, this may be the year you decide to stay home. If so, make sure you talk this over and not just spring it on each other, ohh, say, the night of the Dec. 22. Be in agreement and plan ahead.

This discussion should also include a talk about money, starting with agreeing on how much to spend on gifts. Do you both set a limit on each gift as well as your overall budget? Some large families pick names and then buy for just a few people. If you have children be sure you discuss a limit for them, too.

Money-wise, we have done something different lately. We realized we were spending too much on ourselves and decided to give each other a small gift. Then with the rest of the money we would have normally spent on each other, we each do something with it -- such as donate to a ministry, or buy groceries for a less fortunate family, or buy toys for a foster care child, etc. We then write down what we’ve done and put it under the tree to share with our family on Christmas morning. That has more meaning for us than just a bunch of overly-expensive gifts that we don’t really need anyway.

2. Start Some New Traditions

Traditions are a wonderful part of the holidays that make us feel connected in our families. But this year you might think of a new tradition to add to your others such as your family volunteering at a nursing home or a homeless shelter. Or inviting to dinner a family that is less fortunate than you and purchasing gifts for the kids. Or writing a note to someone who could use appreciation -- someone who is not often thanked -- someone who serves faithfully without recognition such as a Sunday School teacher or a mail carrier.

A few Christmases ago, an extended family started a new tradition -- renting a cabin at a Christian camp. Since it was the off season they had the camp practically to themselves, knowing they had to come self-contained. Their entire family took a walk in the woods and gathered items to decorate a small tree. Then all the adults created a treasure hunt for the children. In the evening they walked to the outdoor worship center using flashlights to guide their way. There they sang Christmas carols, set up their Nativity scene on the altar, which was spotlighted, and prayed together. Then Grandpa shut off the lights, and they were in total darkness in the quiet woods, under the moon and the stars, with God and each other. Later they returned to the cabin to exchange gifts. The children shared their gifts with each other and did craft projects together. It was a family Christmas to remember. Could this be a possibility for you somewhere in your general locale? (If it is and if you do this, let us know your experience after the holidays .)

3. Simplify

Don’t fill your days with too many activities. If you’re rushing through your over-committed activities you won’t end up enjoying anything you’re doing. One thing we do as a family is set limits on what we will do during the holidays. That means deciding what activities you will and won’t be involved in. Pray and ask the Lord to guide you in all of these decisions. Sometimes a well-thought-out “No thank you” is better than saying “Yes,” and then regretting you accepted when you attend the event. And in scheduling your time leave some days open for spontaneity or quiet reading of holiday stories, especially biblical ones.

Make sure one person is not overburdened with all the preparations for Christmas. Get everyone in your family to pitch in with preparations, shopping, wrapping, cooking, setting the table, cleaning up, etc. (Side note to husbands: If in the past your wife has been the main one to take care of all the holiday season details, be ready and enthusiastically available with a willing and helpful attitude to serve her).

4. Spend Time with God

In all the busyness and rush, be sure to spend time with Jesus through meditating on His Word and praying to God in His Name. When we spend time with Him, others often sense His presence in you and can be drawn to Him. What a great gift to give to others. When we talk about prayer, try this: While wrapping gifts, writing Christmas cards, baking cookies, pray for everyone who will enjoy them. While shopping, pray for the other shoppers, the cashiers, etc. You get the idea.

5. Treat Yourself Nicely

Too often during holiday time we eat way too much food, especially sugary sweets. Too many people don’t get enough sleep plus totally neglect any form of exercise. No wonder so many people get sick after the holiday season. Plus when you neglect yourself you don’t have the energy to give out to others. This year try to limit (we didn’t say exclude) the sweets. Make sure you are eating plenty of raw fruits and vegetables, and drinking LOTS of water. Get plenty of sleep as this will keep your immune system healthy to flight off colds and flues. Also make time for exercise. A brisk walk will help -- at least five days a week. Exercise will chip away at those extra holiday pounds and help relieve some of the stress.

May you have a joyous Christmas and a blessed new year!


Bob and Yvonne Turnbull are a husband-and-wife speaking team who speak on relationships (primarily marriage and family) at churches, conference centers, and colleges throughout the USA and Canada. For ten years Bob was internationally known as The Chaplain of Waikiki Beach and prior to that was a Hollywood actor with a credit of seven motion pictures and 41 TV shows. Yvonne was the health nutritionist for two years on The 700 Club TV program for CBN. Between the two of them they have authored nine books with their latest being TeamMates: Building Your Marriage To Complete, Not Compete. They live in the Southern California desert near Palm Springs. For more information visit their Web site,

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ASSIST News Service is brought to you in part by Open Doors USA, a ministry that has served the Suffering Church around the world for nearly 50 years.

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