It seems as though at Christmastime, a man or a woman in ministry has little time for the personal celebration Christmas requires. Church events, concerts, luncheons, parties, hospital visitations and home visits all gobble up nearly every waking hour of this season that is gleefully known as "the most wonderful time of the year."
Where is the "wonderful" connected with this time of a year for someone whose name is preceded by the respected letters of "Reverend" or "Pastor"?
If you are in full-time service at a church and are fighting with the unending demands of ministry, this season can quickly become a season of holy frustration rather than holiday cheer. Is it possible to meet all of the requirements ministry at the Christmas season requires and still embrace a joyous response to the heart of Christmas?
Is it possible to foster family traditions and celebrations when the roar of church commitment drowns out the personal whisper of invitation?
Has the Western church created a monster where there used to be only a baby in a manger?
Perhaps what you should do this year is go for a long walk, take a deep breath and ponder what you will remember in those future seasons of fruitcake, chestnuts roasting and tinsel. Will you have loved those under your charge deeply and sincerely? Will you have spent time with and money on those whose hearts are entwined with yours? Will you have said no to the temporary and yes to the eternal?
Christmas only comes around once a year, so perhaps the priority should be to immerse your life in the things of value and not in the trivia of demand. The call of Christmas is the call to joy, the call to peace and the call to the manger. Those are the only calls of principle and of priority that should deserve a deliberate answer this year or any year. When joy calls your name, run after it. When peace whispers for your attention, give it completely. And when the manger beckons, don't ignore it.
I believe that as pastors and leaders in the body of Christ, our lives should be an example of how to live a life of value and impact. This is especially true at Christmastime. People are watching your personal celebration, and the greatest gift you can give them is to teach them how to celebrate sincerely, simply and meaningfully.
So, rather than attend another party, perhaps you could read a devotional to your family. Rather than use a credit card to boost the pile of presents under the tree, maybe you could choose to give a singular gift that holds intrinsic meaning. Rather than scheduling yet another meeting or committing to a schedule laden with impossible demands, perhaps you could kick off your shoes and sing Christmas carols with those you love the most and know the best.
Each one of us makes the important choice of how to celebrate this season. Don't allow a committee or a congregation to make this individual choice for you. This is the time of year when our predetermined values and priorities must point the way to the manger. The Christ child is inviting you to a tender moment of love and peace.
How will you respond to the call of Christmas?
Carol McLeod is an author and popular speaker at women's conferences and retreats, where she teaches the Word of God with great joy and enthusiasm. Carol encourages and empowers women with passionate and practical biblical messages mixed with her own special brand of hope and humor. She has written five books, including No More Ordinary, Holy Estrogen!, The Rooms of a Woman's Heart and Defiant Joy! Her most recent book, Refined: Finding Joy in the Midst of the Fire, was released last August. Her teaching DVD, The Rooms of a Woman's Heart, won the Telly Award, a prestigious industry award for excellence in religious programming. You can also listen to Carol's "A Jolt of Joy" program daily on the Charisma Podcast Network. Connect with Carol or inquire about her speaking to your group at justjoyministries.com.
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