How to Survive the Christmas SeasonBy Pete Wilson
I’m in a pretty unique season of my life where for the first time in over 20 years, I’m not currently a pastor in a local church at Christmastime.
As you might imagine, there are some pros and cons to this scenario, but I’ve already found myself approaching this Christmas with a much healthier pace than in past years.
For as fun and festive as the Christmas season is, it can also be downright stressful…especially for those in full-time ministry.
Can I get an amen?
You’re attending parties and buying gifts, hosting family and decorating, cooking and baking, and on top of that you’re somehow planning Christmas outreaches, Christmas Eve services, Christmas musicals and the list goes on and on. If you don’t enter the season with a plan in place to maintain your sanity, the stress can set in fast.
Here are 4 things to start doing now to make the countdown to Christmas as peaceful and joyful as it possibly can be for you and your family.
1. Stand firm when saying “No".
I know, I know. You’re in ministry and your job is serving people and you’re probably a people-pleaser like me, but “no” is going to have to be a part of your vocabulary over the next couple of weeks. You’re going to actually have to turn down requests, invitations and opportunities as they come up. Don’t be afraid to say “no” when you just can’t take on one more Christmas-related responsibility.
It’s okay to decline—and it’s a great way to establish boundaries between you and the noncritical fluff that adds to your already packed calendar.
2. Look for ways to incorporate your family.
One thing I always did with the boys that was a lot of fun was to convert my backstage office into the official “Santa Tracking Station”. I would decorate the room and put a computer back there that was dedicated to the Santa tracking radar that Norad displays every year. We’d spend a lot of time at church during Christmas, as we usually had numerous Christmas Eve services that spanned several days. This gave the kids a fun place to hang out with Dad in between services and it’s a tradition/memory that they’ll never forget.
3. Unplug from social media.
Keeping up with social networks can be a huge time-waster—not to mention a comparison trap—any time of the year. And it can worsen around the holidays.
It’s so tempting to scroll through pictures of your friend’s Christmas services where they are breaking all-time attendance records and that board member’s great ski cabin in Vail, or photos of the brand new SUV your brother surprised his wife with – giant red bow and all. So then you find yourself either getting bitter through comparison or you end up online looking at that ski resort’s website and maybe even looking at a new SUV yourself. None of which are actually adding to the deep joy that comes from internalizing what this season means for all of us.
Because you have so many other things to do around the holidays—and because you need to remember how blessed you are to pastor the church you pastor—consider staying off your social media accounts (or at least limiting your time on them) until January. Trust me. It will all be waiting for you when you get back and the only things you’re going to miss out on is some extra unnecessary stress...and about a thousand pictures of tacky sweater Christmas parties.
4. Reset your expectations.
Let’s be honest. There’s potential for a lot of things to go wrong over the next few weeks. No matter what you’ve told yourself, things are not going to be perfect.
Your family might be a mess.
Your Christmas Eve service might be a mess.
Your staff dynamics might be a mess.
Your end of the year giving might be a mess.
Christmas is a reminder that Jesus isn't afraid of our mess.
The Christmas story is a reminder that Jesus doesn't run from our mess, he runs to it. Jesus didn't come into a perfect world full of perfect people, He came into a broken world, full of broken people so that He could redeem us. And that message is not just for your church attenders: that message is for YOU!
Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in all the Christmas clutter that’s not tied directly to Jesus. But Christmas was never meant to be a holiday that stresses us out and overextends us or one based on sales and spending. It was meant for us to pause and remember the quiet, peaceful, humble beginnings of Christ.
And nothing in the birth of Christ speaks of stress or hurriedness or over-scheduling. It’s meant to be a time of calm, of peace, of awe, and of worship. A time to extend grace to those around us and maybe most importantly to ourselves when needed.
And yes, I know you know this. We all do. And we all say these things to other people a hundred times every year, but I’d like to challenge you to take a look inside and see if you’re really believing that for yourself and for this season. Is it just a combination of words that sound better than they actually feel? An idea that you think can never be applied to you due to your position and commitments during Christmas?
Let’s slow down. Clear your calendar of the clutter. Let’s focus on why we celebrate – hey, maybe amidst the stillness, you even come up with some killer Christmas Eve content as you allow yourself to truly feel the heart of this time and the hope that is Jesus. It tends to inspire.
Got more questions about the Christmas season and how to make the most of this time, regardless of what role you are currently serving in? Submit any questions that you might have to #AskPete and we’ll get back to you!