Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

What do you want for Christmas?

Rev. Margaret Marcuson

December 12, 2018

One Christmas, we were visiting family in Seattle, and we attended a midnight service at St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral. My son, aged 11, fell asleep during the service. We woke him up and walked out. He sleepily shook the hand of the one of the priests, and the priest said, “You look like I feel!”

For many pastors, music ministers, and volunteer leaders, December is a time of obligation and exhaustion. Special services, extra rehearsals, mission projects, and church-related parties are layered onto an already busy schedule, not to mention the family obligations that come with the holiday season. As December unfolds, most of those plans are already in motion.

However, it’s not too late to ask this question: What do you want?

I mean, can you make some space for you this month? What would give you joy? Can you make time for your own spiritual and emotional well-being, in the middle of creating joyful experiences for others?

I mean, can you make some space for you this month? What would give you joy? Can you make time for your own spiritual and emotional well-being, in the middle of creating joyful experiences for others?

When I was a pastor, I would arrive at the church before anyone else during Advent. I would sit down at the piano, and I would play and sing one hymn (usually one of the less-well-known Advent hymns my Baptist congregation didn’t like to sing). It was one small thing I did for myself, and it helped me start each day of that busy season in a place of peace.

Can you make time for something you want to do every day – or at least every week – this season? If you love music, can you go to a concert (or make plans to go after Christmas)? Can you keep up your exercise routine (you know it helps with stress), or perhaps do half of it? Can you sit in the church and meditate, even for two minutes?

I know planning and executing Advent and Christmas services is a lot of work. I know that when you have children at home, there’s a lot to be done. I remember squeezing in shopping for stocking stuffers in between pastoral calls. There’s no getting around it.

But take a moment, right now. Just pause. Breathe. Look out the window and think for a moment about what you want to do. See what comes up for you.

To take it a bit further, here’s what I recommend: Take out a piece of paper and a pen. (Yes, do this by hand. You’ll get more ideas.) Write at the top of the page: What do I want this month? Then answer the question. You probably have more than one answer, and some of them may be in conflict. For example, you may want a little free time and you may also want to preach dynamite Advent sermons. Those may not go together (although, it’s possible to write a great sermon in a relatively short period of time). Don’t assume you can’t get what you want.

Then, look over your list. What do you want most? How can you get it, or get some of it? Can you get some of it now, and some of it later, after Christmas? Put it in your calendar now if it’s after Christmas, and be on the lookout for opportunities to make it happen in any of the small moments of quiet you can find before Christmas.

In addition, see if you can be in the moment at the services themselves, even if it’s for short periods of time. Can you worship? Which of your church’s Advent and Christmas traditions do you like the best? Don’t spend the whole time looking around to see what’s working and where you might need to take action. Enjoy it. Breathe, be present, take it in. Celebrate!

My prayer for you today is that you don’t need the week after Christmas to recover from Christmas. What are the ways you are taking care of yourself this Advent season?

The Rev. Margaret Marcuson helps ministers do their work without wearing out or burning out, through ministry coaching, presentations and online resources.

The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of American Baptist Home Mission Societies.

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