At the risk of stating the obvious, Advent and Christmas can be a little crazy-making for pastors and other church leaders.
Some of it cannot be helped; there is usually more to do, more services to plan, more sermons to write, and more places where we are expected to be.
But it can be managed. And it is possible for this time to be Holy and renewing for church leaders.
None of what follows is new or unknown to any of us.
But just like we need to hear the story of the babe born in the manger over and over every year, it doesn’t hurt to remind ourselves of how we can, not just keep our heads above water, but keep this time Holy, healthy and actually enjoyable.
DO NOT NEGLECT YOUR OWN SPIRITUAL PRACTICES.
You know the example of what they tell you about safety procedures just before the plane takes off. When that oxygen mask drops down you put it on first. Only after you have enough oxygen can you be clear headed enough to help those around you with theirs.
You cannot feed your people if you are not feeding yourself.
That means reading the bible for yourself, not your sermon, WELCA devotions, or text study.
Every year the Northeastern Iowa Synod sends out Bread for the Day, with daily bible readings and prayers. (You should be getting yours for 2014 soon). Even if that is all you can manage, you will do well.
Every morning remind yourself… I am just not THAT important.
Yes, yes, as a precious child of God you are priceless beyond important.
But you are not so important that the church will come to an end if you skip one of the seemingly never ending events others have planned for you, in order to take care of yourself or spend time with your family.
I think this is really really hard for pastors and other church leaders to accept, but I promise you it is true.
The church got by and Christmas came and went before you came, it will after you leave and it will survive even if you do miss the Ladies Advent tea because you are just exhausted and need to sleep in on Saturday morning.
The more you want to argue with this the more you need to accept this truth.
You do not have to do everything.
And if you get sick, which many of us do this time because we don’t take care of ourselves, you do not have to come to church and sneeze all over the bread or throw up in the bathroom between services.
Even if you can’t get a supply preacher at this late date, they can have a hymn sing. They will survive.
Because you are Just. Not. That. Important.
Conversely, DO NOT ISOLATE yourself.
Don’t use being too busy to miss things that will feed you and keep you whole and healthy, like text studies and conference pastors gathers and other colleague groups.
Watch what you eat.
Lots of goodies this time of the year that feels good while you eat it but don’t help if you over do it. Don’t be a stoic about it, enjoy the goodies but you don’t have to eat all of them.
Finally, just have some fun. It’s Christmas!
Pastor Joelle Colville-Hanson
Director for Evangelical Mission, ELCA