Christmas and Stress

[From my diary]

Tomorrow is the Fourth Sunday of Advent.  The next day is Christmas Eve.  Then, of course, comes Christmas Day.  This wonderful time of the year we celebrate God becoming human like us–to save us.  With the added intensity of the next few days, your pastor is probably struggling with his or her need for a Savior.

That makes sense to me.  I am a parish pastor.  Two services tomorrow, two more the next day, another one on Tuesday.  One parishioner died this past week.  Another came home two days ago under Hospice care and may not live until Christmas Eve.  This evening an email arrived from a father recapping his 30-something son’s medical progress with a second stem-cell infusion after his latest round of chemo at Walter Reed hospital in Baltimore.  Tomorrow, our children and grandchildren begin arriving at our home to celebrate Christmas.  The next day, we will be joined by other family members from out of state.  Do I need a Savior?  Do I need to know that God knows what it’s like to be me?  You better believe it.

I suspect that pastors everywhere are familiar with this kind of stress.  And I suspect that too few pastors are taking care of their health and their relationships during high-stress seasons.

I keep hearing the line from a Charlie Peacock song, “There’s no cure like a crucifixion.”

I also keep hearing something a nurse said when I visited a patient in the ICU this past week.  Referring to another nurse, he said, “He is strong in Christ.”  This was part of a conversation in which a patient’s husband, her pastor, and this nurse briefly exchanged remarks about the Christians witness of a nurse who was not present.

In many and different ways, God blesses us with the awareness of our need for a Savior.  And, as the Advent gospel reminds us, God likewise promises to send Jesus “who shall save his people from their sins.”

It is hard to imagine a pastor scheduling his or her sabbatical to begin a couple of days before Christmas or a couple of days before Easter.  But, those are a couple times during the year when the importance scheduling a sabbatical seems clear to me.

Maybe there isn’t time for the sabbatical right now, but there is still time for sabbath-keeping, time to die to self, time to be strong in Christ, time to pray, and time to take the gospel of God’s salvation to heart personally.

Photo Credit: “Christmas #25” by Kevin Dooley is licensed under CC BY 2.0