5 Things for Pastors to Remember on Christmas Week

Christmas week can be a very difficult time to be a pastor.  This is a week with a lot of pressure and very high expectations.  This is a very important time for the church as we see new visitors and pray for end-of the-year-giving to come in.  It is also a time with a lot to be done both at church and at home.  Here are 5 things I would remind pastors for having a great week.

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1. Relax- It is not all up to you.  The message of Christmas is that God became flesh and dwelt among us.  We already have a savior.  You are not Jesus.  If you run around like you are the savior of the world or at least the savior of the church then you undermine the entire message of the season.  Relax.  Trust God to show up in your worship services.  The hymns, tradition, and story have plenty of power to make Christmas special.

2. Your family is more important than your church family.  Don’t neglect your own family.  You will really regret it if you run the biggest church in the world but your children end up despising the church because of what you do.  At our house, we arrange for Santa to come on the 24th.  That way I can hang out with my family, go to Christmas Eve service, and then head to family’s houses on Christmas Day.  Be creative in how you spend your holidays to maximize your focused time with your family.

3. Don’t forget to experience Christmas for yourself.  I think I totally missed my own experience of Christmas my first 2 years in ministry. It is easy to get so busy doing Christmas that we don’t feel it at all.  Take time to read the stories for yourselves.  Watch a move about the life of Christ.  Take time to meditate on the amazing thing that Christ did in becoming flesh.

4. Take some time off. Most of us put in a lot of hours getting read for Christmas.  Take some time off.  I personally do not like to take the Sunday after Christmas off because I want to be there in case visitors come back.  What I do is a simple service with a lot more singing and a very short sermon that I have worked ahead on.  In fact, I do that the first Sunday in January as well so that I have those two weeks to rest, recover, and spend a lot of time with my wife and kids.

5. Buy yourself a present for the Holidays.  I always buy myself a good and refreshing book Christmas that I am going to spend some time with while I take some time off.  This year I have 2 books: In the Name of Jesus by Henri Nouwen and Imagining Redemption by David Kelsey.  The blessing is that I have those books to look forward to as a reward for after the craziness of Christmas.

Whatever your methods, remember this:  The best way to take care of your church is to take care of yourself and your family.  Merry Christmas.

The Art of Caring without Caring

For Advent I have been reading Preparing for Christmas: Daily Meditations for Advent by Richard Rohr.  It is has been really helpful for me, but a paragraph from the book yesterday really got to me:

“Can we care intensely and passionately and not care at all in the same moment?  If we are seeking God’s will and not our own, it comes somewhat easily.  We do the best we can, but we are detached from any need for personal success or response.  We can then care and not care in the same moment.  That is true spiritual freedom.”  (pg 48)

Rohr says this comes “somewhat easily.”  It does not for me.  I want to be responsible for the work and responsible for the results.  This especially hits me as the pressure of the holidays builds.  I want to have good sermons, engaging worship, and a welcoming demeanor because I want to have my best foot and the church’s best foot forward for guests at Christmastime.  This is also the end of the year and we are looking closely at where our finances are going to end up for the year.  How do you care about something so much that you put your all into it and at the same time give your trust to God for the results?  I think this is very hard to do, but I think Rohr is right.  There is great freedom in finding that balance.

The Christmas Quiz: A fun tool for teaching story and traditions of Christmas

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This is a quiz that I have been tweaking for several years.  It is all about the Christmas story and our Christmas traditions.  Included are the answers with scripture references and details that make this a great tool for working with youth groups, Bible studies, and even Christmas parties.  Please feel free to copy and use.

Click here for the quiz:  The Christmas Quiz 2014

Twas the Nightmare before New Years

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Twas the Nightmare Before New Years by Jordan Rimmer

 

Twas the Nightmare before New Years, and all through the land
Everyone was stirring, as fast as they can.
The decorations were hung, but were they enough?
Paying off all this credit card debt will be tuff.

The children were tucked in and dreaming upstairs
Of expensive toys that they’ll break and they’ll lose and won’t share.
Mom and I were exhausted, and fell fast asleep
For this was a pace that we just could not keep.

It was snowing outside and starting to pile
In the morning I would have to shovel a while.
Man, was the winter always rough on my back.
And we are travelling this week and didn’t yet pack.

The kids would wake up before the crack of dawn
To open their toys, and all day they will yawn.
Then we’d dash to see family throughout the day
And we’ll eat and we’ll talk while all the kids play.

As the day moves along a smile turns to a frown.
Somebody’s bound to have a melt-down.
It might be a kid who didn’t get enough sleep
Or an adult with too many secrets to keep.

Is this really what Christmas is all about?
That we run and we spend and we stress and we shout?
We hustle and bustle and wear ourselves thin.
Is there something more happening that we just won’t let in?

Then we realize with a great amount of fear:
We are going to have do this all again next year?
But bigger, and better, and nicer, and more
More shopping, more cookies, of everything—more.

Or we could choose differently here, you and I.
We could hold on to love and give up the lie
That Christmas is all about presents and stuff
We could look at it differently, but it will be tuff.

Maybe it’s not about presents at all
Or decorations or cookies or sales at the mall.
Maybe the holiday is all about love.
That started with Christ who came from above.

The love that was laid in the manger of hay
Changes the way we love others today.
Maybe this Christmas we can more than get through.
Merry Christmas, I say, and God’s blessings to you.

 

 

JRR Tolkien on Why Some Preaching is so Bad

J. R. R. Tolkien wrote a letter to his son talking about how bad preaching can be and then gave some advice on what it takes to have a good sermon. This is great advice for pastors:

The answer to the mystery is prob[ably] not simple; but part of it is that ‘rhetoric’ (of which preaching is a dept.) is an art, which requires (a) some native talent and (b) learning and practice. The instrument used is v[ery] much more complex than a piano, yet most performers are in the position of a man who sits down to a piano and expects to move his audience without any knowledge of the notes at all. The art can be learned (granted some modicum of aptitude) and can then be effective, in a way, when wholly unconnected with sincerity, sanctity, etc.  But preaching is complicated by the fact that we expect in it not only a performance, but truth and sincerity, and also at least no word, tone, or note that suggests the possession of vices (such as hypocrisy, vanity) or defects (such as folly, ignorance) in the preacher.

Good sermons require some art, some virtue, some knowledge. Real sermons require some special grace which does not transcend art but arrives at it by instinct or ‘inspiration’; indeed the Holy Spirit seems sometimes to speak through a human mouth providing art, virtue, and insight he does not himself possess: but the occasions are rare. In other times I don’t think an educated person is required to suppress the critical faculty, but it should be kept in order by a constant endeavour to apply the truth (if any), even in cliche form, to oneself exclusively! A difficult exercise… (The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien, p. 75)

Who is the Baby- an Advent Devotional

This is a little Advent devotional that I put together for this year.  It is scriptures about who Jesus is from the Old and New Testaments with brief introductions that I wrote for each text.  I hope it is helpful for you on your Advent journey.  Click here to download:  Who is this Baby- an Advent Devotional

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