Pastoring during the holidays

December 20, 2011

It's become a cliche in pastor circles. How hard the holidays are.
Sometimes cliches can make the reality rather than represent it, but in
this case, I do think the holidays are particularly challenging for most
pastors. Here's a list of 5 things that have been vexing for me this
Christmas season:

  1. Advent sermons. In Advent, the scriptures always talk about Jesus'
    Second Coming and re-making the earth. And every year the earth needs
    re-making. It exacerbates our legitimate doubts about whether he is
    coming back at all. Waiting for Jesus gets tiring. So do Advent sermons
    on waiting.
  2. What to do with Mary? Never more than in the last two years have I
    been aware of pregnancy complications. Several more came on my radar
    this year in the congregation. None of these folks want to hear about
    Mary's miraculous pregnancy and how God comes as a baby. Those words
    hurt.
  3. There's a homeless woman whom we suspect is sleeping in the church.
    Not sure how she gets in, but she hides and sleeps in a classroom. She
    can't stay there. But the shelters across the city are full to the
    gills. There is no room in the inn, anywhere in Atlanta. I still have to
    kick her out.
  4. The calls for assistance come fast and furious. Random people just
    call and every story, if you listen to it, is desperate. Evicted.
    Staying in a hotel. No money. Kids. "Pastor, can you pay for just one
    more night? We'll find the rest...." People can lie about a lot of
    things, but desperation is not easy to mask in someone's voice.
  5. Holidays without loved ones. So many families are missing somebody
    important, maybe from death, from mental illness, from a broken
    relationship.

 

In all of that, there is still great joy this holiday for me. A
beautiful family. A great church that turns out for the things that
count:  40 volunteers for a Christmas party for vulnerable families on
Friday night and 40 more volunteers for a dinner for homeless men on the
next Sunday. A job I like. Good friends all across the world. Lots of
joy.

But if the holidays feel hard... I think it's because they are.

Originally posted at A Minister's Life