Christmas is a complicated season. At the surface, the media sends us the message that it is the “most wonderful time of year” filled with candy canes, happy smiling children, blissful mall shopping, and of course, argument-free family gatherings and copious amounts of leisure time. It’s tough to stomach this rosy view of the holiday season in light of how it makes many of us feel.
This time of year brings with it a mountain of additional stress no matter who you are, but especially for ministry leaders.
Planning extra services, extra-special music, added volunteers, additional services, outreach events, extra gifts, more of your time and lots more money. . . the list of extras goes on and on.
Although I don’t work directly in ministry myself, I’m close enough to those who are and can palpably taste the stress that Christmas brings to church staff far and wide. It’s easy to become cynical, to give in to stress, and morph into Scrooge himself. I know this from personal experience.
Take Time for Joy
It takes a different kind of time and space to intentionally become joyful by resting in who God is and why he sent his son Jesus – the true reason why we are celebrating in the first place.
This past week, as I experienced personal burdening brought on by extra volunteering, mandatory shopping for kids’ Christmas school needs, and all the seasonal stress that IS Christmas, I realized that I have not been intentional in finding joy, and joy to me is nearly the polar opposite of anxiety:
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philipians 4:4-7 (NIV)
By giving our anxieties, hopes, and desires over to Christ Himself, we can experience a fullness of joy in in the middle of chaos. Christmas is not about the things our culture makes it out to be, it is about Christ being delivered to us, to live within us, Emmanuel, for ultimate joy and peace that only comes through knowing him personally. This is the greatest gift of all.
For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you? Indeed, you are our glory and joy.” 1 Thess. 2:19-20 (NIV)
Set Joy-Filled Boundaries
Although God can release you from “seasonal anxiety disorder” that doesn’t mean it’s not wise to put boundaries in place to prevent you and your staff from over-extending beyond what they can reasonable handle.
As I made a list of everything I had to do this week, I realized early on that I would not be able to do everything I wanted to do. Although I want to make homemade treats for each of my neighbors, I saw that this would not be possible. When each of my kids’ room moms reached out looking for volunteers, I knew I could not make every event. When my church asked for additional help with childcare, worship services, and communication strategy, I prayed, then opted for a family commitment to deliver Angel Tree gifts.
Taking time to look through your calendar and realistically set priorities and commit to only things you can do well is a practical strategy that I (sometimes) abide by. Other times, I get myself in too deep and regret my choices that leave me with a bad attitude, grouchy and cantankerous by the end of the day, week, even month.
Pick a moment – even if it’s only five minutes – and search “joy” in your YouVersion App. Spend some quality time resting on Christ’s promises that your joy may be full.
If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” John 15:10-11 (ESV)
I wish you a blessed Christmas as you navigate this holiday season.
If you have a personal “holiday strategy” for your ministry or personal life that you’re willing to share, I’d love to hear how you deal with this wonderful time of the year in the comments below.
Lauren Hunter is a writer who loves exploring the big picture of the journey we are all on together. Her career spans more than two decades in public relations, content marketing, freelance writing, and publishing. Lauren lives in Northern California with her husband and their four children. Her latest book is Write Your Journey: A Step-by-Step Guide to Write Your Life Story Fast.