December 7th, 2018

xmas cats

Christmas and the clergy

I was driving Deanne to work this morning and she was talking about holiday stress. The run-up to Christmas is always busy -- for everybody -- and we are busier than usual right now. On top of that, we are trying to find a new used car while dealing with the stress of only having one vehicle to use. So, there's that. And yet, Deanne was saying that there is just no comparison to what the season used to be like when I was pastoring.

Now that I'm retired, I can say this, perhaps, without some folks thinking I'm just whining: You have no idea how stressful and exhausting Christmas is for clergy (and their families). Yes, it's a wonderful time of the year. I love Christmas. But it beat me up year after year. And I would no sooner get Christmas over with than all the end-of-year record keeping and start-the-year meetings would have to be seen to. "No wonder you say the wheels come off the wagon for you about February," Deanne said. And indeed they did.

The "Christmas playoffs" that the clergy run through between Thanksgiving and the end of January is only one of several amped-up seasons in the yearly cycle. No sooner does one finally catch a break from Advent-Christmastide-Change of Year than one launches into Lent-Holy Week-Easter. Then there's Annual Conference (and a possible move) and summer programs and trips. Coming into the fall, there's all the Charge Conference-Stewardship program stuff. The clergy are expected to play in winning form all the time, and then find something extra and leave it all on the field for the championship about four times a year. Mind, body, spirit, and relationships are all wrung out regularly, and there is too little opportunity to recuperate.

So, do I regret doing it? No. I am happy to have given my all for Jesus. And I am proud of having played at such a high level for so long. But what I'm saying is that as you go about doing all that you do for the sake of the season, please remember to pray for your pastor. And maybe say a kind word or two about his or her efforts to make the season special.

Meanwhile, I remind my fellow clergy who are still serving in the pastorate that we are not called to headline every event and act as both grand marshall and street sweeper for every parade. The clergy need to take care of themselves so that they can model the peace that the season promises. How we do Christmas is probably at least as important as what we say at Christmas, I think. In Charles Williams' Arthurian poetry, Dinadan teaches Taliessin about leadership:
'...Labour without grudge is labour without grief,
and the dayspring will have its head where it bids.
Any may be; one must. To neighbour
whom and as the Omnipotence wills is a fetch
of grace; the lowest wretch is called greatest
-- and may be -- on the feast of fools. The Godbearer
is the prime and sublime image of entire superfluity.
If an image lacks, since God backs all,
be the image, a needless image of peace
to those in peace; to you an image of modesty.
This purchase of modesty is nothing new;
in the cause is your comfort, in your comfort also the cause.
Take the largesse; think yourself the less; bless heaven.'