Are you Doing Anything Special for Christmas?
Rev. Debra Griffis-Woodberry
Help it is the middle of August and I have not even thought about Advent since we stored the wreath last December, where is it that we put it for new and better storage? Better call the worship team, did we change chairpersons last year? I’ll get ahead and just start looking at the calendar and lectionary readings. What year are we in now? C?, okay so Advent 2019 will be Year A. Great the Old Testament readings are from Isaiah, they are rich. I like that.
I just got a text that Aunt Margie wants the Family gathering to be on the Saturday before Christmas Eve since Christmas is on Wednesday this year. Christmas is on Wednesday? How will that effect worship attendance? What will be our big Sunday? School is out on December 20th. When is the choir presenting the cantata? Also, don’t forget the Healy’s grandson will be here on Dec. 15th and they want him to sing “Silent Night” during worship. He does a great job, they say. Is it liturgically correct to sing “Silent Night” before Christmas Eve? I know what my worship professor said. But, she doesn’t live here or know the Healys!
The gospel lessons this year are from Matthew. The second and third Sunday both are about John the Baptist. Only the Fourth Sunday’s reading fits at all with our local traditions. At this point, Advent and Christmas promise to be a chaotic jumble. I leave my office and go for coffee at The Hub, a local gathering spot. As I sip my coffee, Sam the chairperson of our Ad. Council comes in. He smiles, greets me warmly and says, “Hey preacher, You and the family doing anything Special for Christmas this year?”
Annually, for several decades as pastor, I experienced the above composite.
Seasons guide the cadence of life, work and play. There are expectations for Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall. Sports teams have seasons. Families have annual gatherings around special dates. Schools have defined semesters. The liturgical season beginning with Advent guides churches. For clergy the expectations of seasons often collide with each other, especially around Christmas and Easter. It is difficult to prevent the collisions even while planning for them.
The following practices may help with the chaos as seasons come and go.
First, plan a time of sabbath rest for yourself. Planned extended time away for a kind of sabbatical is great but not always possible. Do plan at least one before you retire. Meanwhile, it does not have to be a nuanced or long. Even a half day away for spiritual rest will help. Try it several times a month.
Secondly, get an early start. Realize in August that Advent is coming.
Thirdly, Gather all the information to chart the course, such as choir plans, Christmas dinners at the church, social events that the pastor is expected to attend, family plans, etc. Knowing the specifics can prevent a crash when there are two or more situations demanding the pastor’s presence.
Fourth, set aside a couple days to discern through prayer the texts, that God is beckoning you toward this year. Ponder and pray. Then meet with worship teams, choose the hymns, decide upon the theme for the season.
Fifth, maintain a calm center, remembering that this is holy work.
Sixth, gather, converse and pray with others.
Seventh, plan time away soon after Christmas.
Please consider joining Rev. Rhonda Abbott Blevins, Rev. David Brown and me as we start the Advent conversation in a webinar on August 20th at 10:30 am Eastern.