I’ve been ordained by my denomination (the Presbyterian Church in Canada) for 7 years. I’m the minister of a two point charge in rural Nova Scotia – I’m also a husband, father and community volunteer. My life is full and rich and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I do find that some clarification may be needed – especially in light of a recent article on the CBC (http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/the-trials-and-triumphs-of-church-clergy-at-christmas-1.2468903), which is making the rounds on Facebook.
Christmas is NOT my busiest time of year. Yes, there are extra services – sure, the activity level of the family is increased – but no more than in September, when school begins, or June when Sunday School wraps up, or (dare I say it) Easter, with Lenten and Holy Week services to prepare. In fact, none of this constitutes “busy” for me – I am simply engaged in the work to which the church has called me; work that requires that I constantly straddle the boundaries between personal and public activity.
The clarification I would make (to the aforementioned article) is that Christmas is the season of greatest expectation. Not the kind of “Night before Christmas”expectation made famous by Clement Moore – but the expectation of the general public that because everything else in December is shiny and bright and full of wonder, their annual trip to church should be something spectacular too. In short, I am busy because everyone is expected to be busy at Christmas.
The church has not done enough to address this particular imbalance. We (and I include myself among the guilty) have been swept up in the pomp and hype – our preparation and our observation have been infected by the frantic, and in so doing we have abandoned the fantastic. I don’t know about you, but frantic never does much for my sense of wonder, or worship. It has to stop. the church is supposed to be an alternative example for society – in but not of the world.
The article alludes to the problems with our approach – increased anxiety; family fireworks; a spike in the kind of emergency pastoral care that is never easy, but always necessary – these things happen whether we are shining up services for Christmas or not. But I believe that some of this anxiety (and grief) could be tempered if we stopped pretending to believe in the “more is better” approach to holiday celebration.
So if you want to give me a gift this year, don’t remind me of how “busy” I am. I have a job that I love and I do it. Instead, thank me for being engaged – listen to the gospel that I’m trying to faithfully preach – and have a blessedly engaging Christmas yourself.