Christmas is almost here. The outside decorations are in place, the tree is up, the presents are (sort of) wrapped. And like any good pastor–and even the not-so-good ones, I am busy trying to keep my head above water as I deal with all the stuff that churches and our culture have built into this season of the year. There are extra worship services, extra social events, extra shopping, extra cooking–it seems like there is extra everything except time.
I realized a few days ago that I am waiting impatiently, which seems to be a culturally acceptable response to Christmas. We expect it mostly in children but it is still acceptable for adults, even senior-discount qualified adults. However, I am waiting impatiently for something different. I am eagerly awaiting the lasagna and movie that are our Christmas Eve ritual. It will be nice to open the presents on Christmas day. I am looking forward to cooking the turkeys and making the gravy for the church sponsored Christmas dinner. I am even happily planning on turkey leftovers.
But as nice as these things are, they are not what I am impatiently waiting for. They will come in due time and I will enjoy them. But what I am impatient for begins on the day after Christmas. No, it isn’t Boxing Day sales. What I am really waiting for is the free time that comes between the week between Christmas and New Years.
That is a great and wonderful time. All the special stuff in the church is over. Even the regular programs like Bible study take a break. The cultural bash takes a break as we digest Christmas dinner and wear out batteries. New Years is coming but we don’t need to do much about that. People tend to hunker down and rest up from the strain and stress of the holiday.
And all that means that aside from working on a sermon for the next Sunday, I don’t have a long list of things to do. As long as the sermon and worship service are put together, my week is pretty much free. We have some plans but mostly the week will be about unwinding, relaxing and taking it easy. We will likely take a day to see a movie that we want to see, which will include a meal of course.
We will sleep in. We will watch movies. We might go cross country skiing, although the weather predictions make that look less likely. We will eat at strange times. We will spend some time reading the books we got for Christmas and eating the goodies that showed up in the Christmas stockings.
I am looking forward to that relaxing and relatively unscheduled time. The Advent/Christmas season is busy and hectic and demanding. I do what I do voluntarily and willingly but it is tiring and gets more tiring each year. But I learned long ago that that week between Christmas and New Years is another gift, a gift of time.
Somehow, our church culture and our actual culture have come together to produce a week of dead time, a few days where nobody expects much of anyone–and that includes pastors. I could call it a happy coincidence. I could spend a lot of time exploring how the church and the culture end up with a space at the same time. I could research the development of this time in history.
But truthfully, I am not likely going to do any of that. I am going to enjoy it to the fullest. I will write a sermon and plan a worship service. But for the rest of the time, I am going to treat that precious time for what it really is–a gift from God to all of us who are tired from the Advent/Christmas activity and who need some space and time before we step into the New Year and all its activities.
However it came about, these few days are too valuable and important not to see them as a another sign of God’s grace. And so, I wait in eager anticipation of the time to relax and rest and sleep and do whatever. I like Christmas–and I really like the break following Christmas.
May the peace of God be with you.