How Advent Can Help In The Busiest Ministry Season Of The Year

December 1st, 2017

It was mid-December, and I was in a pretty good place.  My talks were written, and my leader schedules made and filled.  I even had a team of lovely ladies in our church who were going to show up at all our Christmas Eve services with freshly baked goodies for our ministry volunteers.  But as I stood in my kitchen staring at the calendar and wondering how in one evening I was ever going to feed my children (who had been surviving on fast food for more days than I care to admit), get them to their dance recital while strategically squeezing in a quick trip around town to look at Christmas lights, and cover up those empty boughs on our Christmas tree which kept glaring at us and begging to be decorated, I realized something.  My ministry was doing just fine.  But my family and I weren’t so much.

Then I heard it— that little voice in my mind whispering “Why am I doing all this, anyway?” which can only lead me in one of two directions: bitterness, or intention.  In that moment I realized how very important it is follow the advice I give to families each December, and slow down.  My family and I needed to make space for honoring and celebrating the coming of Christ in the life of our family too, or in our busyness we’d miss it altogether.  

On a quick impulse I googled “Advent”, and here’s what I found: Hope, Peace, Joy, Love, and Jesus.  Those were all things we really needed to refocus on. The next day a new family tradition was born, as we put on our coats and boots, took a walk, and gathered some local greenery.  When we came home, laughing together for the first time in a while, we found candles and jars and had our own impromptu Advent reflection. 

Ministry brings many blessings, but one of its challenges is that while we help others experience God at work in their lives, we frequently sacrifice those moments in our own.  And if that becomes a habit, our own stunted growth will start to affect our relationships with God and those we love.  If you’re in ministry, there’s no doubt you have a very busy season looming ahead of you.  And whatever age or stage of life you’re in, if you allow the “doing” of the Christmas season to overshadow the “being”, then pretty soon you’re going to start hearing that voice—  the voice which can only lead you in one of two directions—  whispering to you too.

If you don’t already have a practice for spiritual self-care in the Christmas season, perhaps Advent can help.  Putting aside just a few minutes each week to recognize the wonder of Christ’s coming— into our world and into yours—  can help you look around and recognize what He is doing right now.  It doesn’t have to be fancy, or even scripted.  I invite you and someone you love to grab some jars, candles, and the antique platter that you never use because it’s so fancy, and make yourself an advent wreath.  To help you out, in the coming weeks we’ll be posting a quick reflection for each of the five candles of Advent.  You can use them on your own, at home with family, or even with your youth group as you stop, take a breath, and turn your hearts to Christ.  Peace be with you this Advent season!

Rachel Dodd is Director of Youth Discipleship for Kent UMC in the beautiful Pacific Northwest, and an MDiv student at Fuller Theological Seminary.  She and her husband Carl have been serving churches students and families in England and US for over 15 years, and have two daughters who keep life full of sparkles, adventure, and coffee.


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