I love everything about Christmas…Music, decorations, gift giving, and get-togethers! I feel so close to Jesus, like He picked me personally to throw Him a birthday party. It is a month long process, and it makes me happy to delight those I love in His honor.
But there are things about this season that also make me a stressed-out, emotional basket case if I’m not careful…And they seem to all be related to our lives in ministry:
- We live far away from our families- Serving God on mission means going where you are sent. So it doesn’t always make sense to travel to be near our loved ones. Our particular church holds several Christmas Eve worship services on three different campuses. It is hard to make it special for our family when so much is riding on making it a spiritual experience for so many other families. I always end up feeling guilty. I’ve found that the cure for this is communication. I just try to be honest with the folks. I tell them they are welcome to join us in our home, but there will be no travelling for us until after the dust settles. Sometimes we have a house-full; sometimes we end up with just us. We try to facetime and make sure they know we miss them. I’ve found all concerned to be very understanding. It’s the cost of the call and God is gracious to grant us peace.
- Giving extravagantly is not always an option– We have known times of plenty as well as leaner times. I try to buy year round so we don’t take such a financial hit in December. Sometimes we spend on a shared experience rather than individual gifts. We focus on helping others with projects like loving on our city through giving and volunteering through our church to help the less fortunate. This is always the biggest blessing and our kids learned the truth of the Joy in serving as well as sharing.
- The schedule is grueling– Trying to make as many Sunday School class parties as we can, leading our churches giving efforts, Staff parties, Kids activities, and Worship services all go with the territory. And we love staying busy! We love loving on our flock and our co-workers. But sometimes, we get tired. We block off time to say “not tonight” and stay home together. A night or two of hot chocolate, cookies, and a Christmas movie by the fire in our sweatpants is a great way to make memories and take a deep breath.
- Spiritual drain happens– In the hustle and bustle we can get spent past our own strength. We open our ears and our eyes to those who find the holidays especially trying, lonely and emotional. But we have learned not to forgo the daily disciplines that keep us Spirit-filled. We try to spend more time worshipping through the music of the season, praying and abiding in the word. These are not a safety net. They are the only fuel acceptable to run the race. If we forget that in our pride and competency, we are headed for a crash.
- Physical costs– Imagine the calories involved in about 30 parties attended over a month! Combine that with skipped workouts and stress and it takes a big toll. So we eat healthy before we leave home and delicately graze as we party hop. We try to not drink our calories. We step our walks and jogs up a notch. We freeze the goodies lovingly sent our way as gifts, and pull them out throughout the year. We re-energize our introverted selves with extra times of solitude when we can.
It’s funny how a lifetime of ministry changes “the way we do Christmas.” It’s really not a bad thing.
We just learn to protect and adapt.
Our kids don’t really even know anything different. So if your experience is similar, shake off that perfectionism, irrational guilt, and the urge to “do it all”. Soak in the joy and gratitude of the season, consider it a privilege to serve, and take time to reflect on the progress made and exciting year to come. Sit with your dog in your lap by the light of a glowing tree and a crackling fire. Sing a Carol and whisper a prayer of thanks for the salvation and grace represented by the manger scene on your coffee table. Have a Merry Christmas. For, “The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14
Published December 5, 2014