About seven years ago I got to December 26 and realized I ‘missed’ Christmas. To me, this was a tragedy. I love Christmas and everything about it. I love what we are celebrating and looking forward to as Christians. I love the music (which I start listening to in early October. There is just TOO much good Christmas music to jam into 25 days!), the giving of gifts, the lights, the setting up of Christmas décor, the food, the baked goods and the general spirit of peace (not found in the stores I know!) all around.
So to get to December 26 and realize I had been so busy with parties, planning and extra ministry duties to the point I missed the whole holiday, right then and there I promised myself it would not happen again. I would not let myself be so rushed by the ‘baubles’ and busyness of Christmas that I would miss the chance to slow down and pace more thoughtfully through it.
And for the most part, I have successfully done this. It takes great effort every year, but it is possible, even for those of us in ministry. Here are a few of the simple things I have done to make sure Christmas happens each year for me.
- As youth director, I oversee the Youth Christmas Candlelight Service every year. That means more work and more busy moments. But there are two sides to this. It is a service that also helps set the mood for the rest of the season. Since our church doesn’t do this service on Christmas Eve and I can set the date, I have done it for the last few years on the first Sunday evening of Advent. That way the busy planning is over early, BUT the service itself gets me into the spirit of Christmas right at the start of the season.
- I try to do more of my shopping on-line so as not to fight crowds. We do enough “crowd-control” in our job at times so why invite it into our lives when we don’t have to?
- If you are a Youth Leader you more than likely drink coffee, or at least hot chocolate. Can I get an “Amen!”? Once or twice during the Christmas season, treat yourself to a special holiday beverage at the local coffee shop.
- I found that sending out Christmas cards was more headache and hassle than I needed during the season, so I eventually stopped trying to force myself to do this, especially when I read a blog from another author encouraging just this idea. Instead I found a great deal of pleasure in spending a quiet afternoon baking holiday treats and then giving them away. Find a holiday activity that relaxes you and lose the ones that make you want to pull your hair out. There is no right or wrong here.
- Don’t feel like you must attend your student’s Christmas concerts. This was something I gave up years ago because of the fact it made me that much busier with more nights out during an already crazy season. If, however, these help bring out more of the Christmas spirit for you, go for it! If not, there are plenty other concerts besides the Christmas ones you could attend.
- There are numerous devotionals out there written specifically for advent and Christmas. I set aside my usual devotions to read through these each year. This has been probably the biggest way I have paced through Christmas and not missed the whole holiday and the meaning behind it.
It’s so sad when those of us in ministry get to the end of the Christmas season completely wiped out because of the fact it is Christmas. Christmas can be met in such a way as to pace through it more thoughtfully and meaningfully. I pray you can pace through this coming season, encountering the peace that can be found there.
Sarah Vanderaa is currently serving as a full-time youth director in a church located in the south suburbs of Chicago. She is currently in her 11th season and is excited to see what the year will bring. On her rest days, she can often be found behind a computer writing and updating her blog, while drinking lots and lots of coffee. In between naps, she still finds time to read novels. You can connect with Sarah through her blog at UNLOCKANDRELEASE.TUMBLR.COM or her Facebook page @UNLOCKANDRELEASE