Deacon Paul and Helen McBlain write the Marriage Matters column for CatholicPhilly.com. Members of St. Joseph Parish in Collingdale, they have been married 50 years and have seven children and 21 grandchildren.

She says: 

Joyce says: I am not looking forward to the holiday rush. I get disgruntled just thinking about the baking, the card writing, the purchasing and then wrapping of gifts, even the holiday parties that we are expected to attend. I find all of this exhausting. Added to these “traditions” are the pleas of the children for gifts they see advertised on TV or displayed in the multiple catalogs that arrive daily at our home. I feel as if I am lost in this myriad activity and am becoming increasingly unable to manage all of it. I am dismayed at the juggling that needs to go on and am feeling overwhelmed with preparation for and celebration of the holidays. I would prefer to skip December and go straight to January.

He says:

Brad says: I can’t wait for the upcoming holidays and improved spirit among people at the office and on the street. The Advent calendar countdown, nightly lighting of the Advent wreath, our kids in the school Christmas pageant, all culminate with Christmas Eve Mass at the parish. I enjoy watching movies like “It’s a Wonderful Life” or “A Charlie Brown Christmas” with the kids. I look forward to nostalgically remembering holidays past and anticipate family memories to be made. I really enjoy our search for “the perfect tree” and decorating it with the children. I love our home hosting the Christmas meal and having dear friends and family join with Joyce and I and the kids to celebrate the day.

What do they do?

With all of her exhausting involvement, Joyce appears to be losing the true meaning of celebrating Christmas. Without centering on Christ, the celebration and meaning of Christmas cannot be realized. Joyce faces stress that will rob her of any joy in experiencing the spirit of the birth of the Christ Child who came to our world to redeem us. When Joyce, or any of us, get caught up in holiday chores, it is easy to lose sight of why we celebrate.

Brad seems to be more into the true spirit of Christmas. He has not lost the “Christ” in Christmas; however, one questions just how little he seems to contribute toward the work involved in making the celebrations a success. Is Brad just enjoying the fruits of the work Joyce does? Or is Brad truly connected to Christ, thus being able to enjoy the true reason for the season?

How does a family handle completing the work involved with providing for Christmas yet retain the calm quiet of the Lord’s birth and the companionable enjoyment of family and friends?

Sorting out the need to provide (the Martha syndrome) with taking the time to listen (Mary’s better part) is essential to being able to truly enjoy this season while accomplishing tasks that are needed to make it festive.

Joyce needs to re-focus on the reason for the season: the Coming of Jesus. She also needs to allow Jesus more space in her life. This can only be done if Brad and the kids work with Joyce to help her to depressurize the situation.

Before the rush begins, hold a meeting to decide your family priorities for the holiday season and stick to them. There must be some things that can be cut from your schedule. Many of the things that Mom now does by herself can become family enjoyments. If everyone pitches in, the work involved to prepare for the celebration will be put into perspective and the celebration will have meaning far beyond what Joyce and her family have been experiencing.

But most of all, understand that this Advent season, the season of hope, is about Jesus Christ coming to each of us. It is about our believing and trusting that Jesus knows us and wants us to be in a personal relationship with him. Yes, enjoy the excitement and anticipation as we prepare for Christmas. Jesus wants us to be his joyful people.