Well, we made it through Thanksgiving, which means…it’s that time of year again. Yes, I’m talking about Advent. A time that can be challenging because along with all the church stuff to do, there are family celebrations to prepare for, and sometimes post-Christmas travel plans. Whether you are a pastor, church musician or lay leader, it’s a busy time.
One year we attended a late-night Christmas Eve service at St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral in Seattle. My son, age eleven, fell asleep. We woke him up to leave, and he walked sleepily through the door. The priest greeting everyone looked at him and said, “You look like I feel!” I laughed at the time, but remembered very clearly my days when I was a pastor, and I often felt that way at the end of Christmas Eve.
Maybe there’s no way to avoid the Christmas hustle and bustle, but here are some ways to take care of yourself during Advent.
Here are 6 ways to thrive this season:
- Do something for yourself every day. On all your lists of to-dos it is imperative at this point to prioritize yourself. It’s way too easy to let this slide, which is why it’s the first step. You’ve got to keep nourishing YOU all season long. You could sing your favorite carol. (Yes, it’s OK to sing Christmas carols for yourself in Advent even if your church doesn’t sing them in worship.) Look at pictures of past holidays. Listen to Christmas music in the car. Or, do something that has nothing to do with Advent and Christmas. Do something bigger every week; go to the movies, take a long nap or bubble bath, eat your favorite food, go for a hike or even take 5 minutes to be outside alone every day.
- Really use an Advent calendar. This tradition can serve you throughout this time. Here’s a nice online option from Loyola Press. Or use a beautiful paper one with windows, (maybe one with chocolate), even if you don’t have kids. Use it as a moment to remind yourself to breathe and enjoy.
- Ground yourself in the present moment. Like right now. Take a moment. Breathe. Experience God’s love expressed in Jesus. Smile. Notice the light in people’s eyes and on people’s homes.
- Let go of perfectionism. Seriously. Christmas happens every year. Everyone (well, almost everyone) will love the services. Focus on what is working – the electricity is on, the sound works, people arrived safely! We created a space for people to practice their faith. We made it another year. And on and on. Look for what’s working, appreciate that, and don’t let other perfectionists get you down.
- Take advantage of the fact that everyone is busy. Focus on what actually needs to be accomplished and who really needs to be at the table. For example, which teams or committees can skip their meeting this month? Trust me, no one will complain, and you can get an extra evening at home.
- Remember: it’s not all up to you. God works through Advent and Christmas worship. The story of God’s love made real in Jesus has emotional and spiritual power that has lasted for centuries. People bring themselves to worship and other church events and get what they need to out of it.
So, with those six steps, I wish you an awesome Advent. I’m here for you this season, so do feel free to email me with any stories, challenges, or questions.
Here we go,