Preparing for Christmas, personally and professionally
For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given. And he will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6 (NIV)
Ninety-five days till Christmas the newscaster said. Inwardly I groaned. Unlike Hobby Lobby who starts Christmas after the Fourth of July, it's hard for me to get motivated when Halloween (sorry, the Autumn Festival) has yet to arrive. Working in a large church has rearranged my priorities for holidays. Start early or suffer the consequences.
If you are on Staff, with several ministries under your supervision, or perhaps just one with lots of workers like Sunday School, Christmas becomes a time of appreciation of leadership. Brunch, lunch or dinners pop-up in every ministry and you are invited to them all. “Oh, by the way, would you say a few words, bring the message, give the evangelistic call?” says the organizer of the event.
Here are some helpful hints to prepare for those requests and get a head start on a season that is fast approaching.
START EARLY. Reread the gospel story of Christ's birth in your quiet time. Ask the Lord for new insight. Take that personal idea, given by the Holy Spirit, to renew your love of the old story and enlarge upon it. Add interesting facts gleaned from your research. Find a meaningful poem. Incorporate a devotional reading. Research the background on familiar Christmas music. I once spoke for twenty minutes on the story behind the song “Rudolf the Red Nose Reindeer” intermixed with the birth of our Savior as he brought compassion, love and hope to desperate people.
Create a thirty to forty-minute message for a speaking engagement, a fifteen-minute devotion for the appreciation luncheon for leaders (they love brevity), and a seven-minute statement sufficient for that unexpected request, that a harried leader makes, as you walk in the door of the restaurant.
Because we draw from our encounter with the Lord, whatever the setting, the listeners will connect with the words the Holy Spirit has given us to say. Our personal walk with the Lord is always reflected to the audience.
START EARLY because the church decoration team needs to be recruited. Look for women who have a natural ability to decorate well; include some guys for manhandling ladders and trees. If possible, give them a budget. Coordinate a theme with the senior pastor and the music department. Set a schedule for setup and tear-down.
Always check with the Sunday School department and music director so the twenty-foot fake tree on the stage doesn't interfere with thirty-five pre-schoolers singing Jingle Bells the third weekend in Dec.
Make sure the new janitor knows where the Christmas decorations are stored. Purchase new ones if necessary. Sometimes the 1950 garland just needs to disappear.
Remember fire regulations: NO OPEN FLAME CANDLES. I once had decorations fall off a wall and narrowly miss a bank of lit candles. Thank you, Lord, for your protection.
START EARLY and, if at all possible, give your leaders a break at Christmas. Bring ministries to an end two weeks before Christmas and do not resume until two weeks after New Years. They will be so grateful.
START EARLY, and make reservations for the Staff party. In addition, during the lull in the office, find a way to acknowledge the women who work on your staff. Give them extra days off after Christmas with pay. They work hard to make ministries run smoothly, and usually for minimum wage. They deserve a Christmas gift of time at home. A little box of something never hurts, and a nice luncheon speaks volumes.
START EARLY because you have a home life, and family Christmas is just as important as the Churches' celebration of Christ's birth. Our children may not remember what cookies we baked at Christmas, but they will remember a Mom/Dad that was exhausted from working at the church. That's a memory we want to avoid, so START EARLY.
My prayer for you:
Father, thank you for sending the Wonderful One, who would grow up and eventually die for our sin and give us eternal life. As we move into a busy season, give us discipline to start early, long before the Christmas spirit motivates us. We need creativity and generosity of spirit. Help us grant mercy and understanding when others are harried by life's demands. But, most of all, refresh our hearts and help us see the old, old story in a new light. Then our praise and our words will give life to others. In your wonderful name, dear Jesus. Amen.