It didn't happen all at once. It was gradual. But when I realized what was happening, it set off shock waves in my soul.
I was working part-time at a church and we were three weeks into Advent. I had two small children, was way overworked and could not figure out how to give people what they wanted when it came to worship during Christmas. Every week seemed to be a constant disappointment to my people.
I was sitting on the couch (extremely stressed) when my wife said it.
"You used to love Christmas."
I don't know heartbreak can come through a person's voice, but it was alive and well in the living room that day. She didn't have to say why. We both knew - working in a church had made me hate Christmas.
It's a tough season for ministers of all kinds, but I think the challenges for worship leaders are especially strong. I don't think that worship leaders forget about Jesus coming to the Earth and the glorious miracle of Emmanuel; I think worship leaders let all the other stuff distract them from having their priorities in order. But there are some steps you can take to serve your congregation with a healthy perspective.
#1. IT'S ALL ABOUT EXPECTATION.
Congregational worship will always hit some bumps when there are heightened expectations. Some of your people will be busting out the Christmas sweaters and expecting Sundays to be a all day Christmas carol singalong like they used to do at Grandma's house. Others will be stressed and financially strapped and will come each week hoping that church won't remind them of how hard this season is. And your worship junkies will be livid that you've bumped their favorite songs to make room for Christmas songs because they "just can't worship to that stuff."
You have two choices when it comes to expectations; you can either fight them, or help reset them. Advent worship is a time where you may have to do more talking/teaching from the stage. Find ways to remind your people that we don't sing for nostalgia's sake and we most definitely worship because all the stores have more stuff we can buy. That may seem simple, but your people need to hear that. Helping them have a right view of Advent worship is supposed to be will head off some of the critiques that come at Christmas time.
#2. DON'T BE STUBBORN (musical or otherwise)
Some of this we bring on ourselves. Look, Christmas carols are some of the most well-known songs in the history of music. I guarantee more of your people know "Joy To The World" than "Oceans." In fact, if you spend most of the year complaining that your people don't sing, you probably should be a little bit more grateful when Advent rolls around. 'Cause people will sing.
But a lot of us won't let them because we're too stubborn about it. Yes, some carols are hard to play and yes, adding Christmas songs to your list may not feel as "cool," but your people need someone who can pastor them past the nostalgia and into the gratitude for Jesus.
#3. SHUT UP ABOUT IT
You're going to be tempted to complain, but guess what? Everybody is stressed at Christmas time. Don't come home to your family and tell them all the reasons why your job is so hard. Don't bite their heads off when they ask you questions. You're going to feel stress, but if you want to protect the people who love you, you won't come home and unload every single thing that's hard about your job.
On the way home, take an extra ten minutes in the driveway to disconnect from the work thing. When people ask you how Christmas planning is going, tell them "Great!" Because I can promise you no one - your friends, family, congregants - wants to hear you complain about a job where you get to make music for a living.
#4. GIVE YOURSELF AN OUT
If you're able, take some time off immediately after Christmas. Have a guest leader come in so you can get out of town or just stay home for a day or two. This will allow you to recharge and rest up, which will make you that much better of a worship leader when you come back to work.
And Christmas holidays don't count. Yes, they are days "off," but they're pretty busy. Find some time the week after Christmas to take a few personal days and recuperate. Your family and your church will be grateful for it.
What other tips do you all have for coping with Christmas?