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How families can survive Christmas and still be friends

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One of the most difficult things about Christmas for many people – couples in particular – is the need to balance the expectations of different parts of the family. Two people's families might each expect to see them on Christmas Day. Unless they live in the same town, one of them is going to lose out, reported Christian Today.

And a couple just starting out on married life might find it difficult to manage these expectations. The danger is that one of them gives in to keep the other happy, and stores up resentment in their own family at a perceived slight.

Furthermore, the strain of keeping everyone happy means that instead of Christmas being a joyful celebration of the Saviour's birth it becomes something to dread. In the worst cases, the competing pull of different branches of the family mean that a couple even with their own children can't make their own traditions and form their own memories because they're so busy satisfying other people. When there's divorce in a family and the webs of relationships are even more complicated, it's even harder.

There's no way through this except via honesty – and compromise. A couple has to realise two things: first, that they have a responsibility to each other, and second, that their responsibilities to their families don't end with their marriage.

Christmas is sold to us as a time when all our dreams come true, and for many people that means that they won't do anything they don't really, really want to do. But in the moral world of the gospel, doing what we ought to do can be an even greater blessing. As well as pleasing ourselves, pleasing others is in the true spirit of Christmas.

So a couple experiencing tensions over Christmas might need to be clear with a demanding wider family that they need time to themselves as well. This is not being selfish, it's being responsible husbands and wives.

But they might also need to be sacrificial, and acknowledge that others have claims on them too – and that sometimes these claims are going to clash. So difficult but firm conversations with each other's families, in which both put on a united front and support one another in whatever decision is taken, are essential.

Christmas is a delightful time, in which we're reminded again of the grace of God in sending his son Jesus to be born as one of us. But Jesus was born into a family with its own problems, like any other. He would have been familiar with our struggles to do the right thing, risking disappointing people along the way. If we act with integrity and honesty, our Christmases can be blessings to us and everyone we care for.

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