Growing OLD is inevitable,
growing UP is optional
(or so says a birthday card I received... I think it's right! :-)
A season of preparation, beginning on the fourth Sunday before
Christmas, in which the church recalls its hope and
expectation in the coming of Christ, past, present and future.
This is a great description, and certainly, as I participated in the life of the congregations at Newnham and Lilydale during the season of Advent (in preaching, leading worship and other things), I worked hard to encourage people to do this; set aside time to reflect on how Jesus comes to us, again, and again and again...
However, it occurred to me as I was going to bed at around 2:30am on Christmas morning, after a midnight Christmas Eve service (the third service for the day), and anticipated getting up early to lead an 8:30am Christmas morning service, that as ministers (or 'trainee ministers'), at Christmas, one of the most significant times of the Christian calendar, (which also tends to be one of the busiest times of the church year), there is little time for us to actually do what we are encouraging our congregation members to do, that is, to draw aside from the busyness of life and reflect on the wonder of the coming of Christ.
I see this as a tad ironic, but am unsure what, if anything, can be done to change it. At theological college we have the importance of 'self care' drummed into us, as ministry is hard work, and emotionally demanding, and so it's important for us to learn to draw appropriate boundaries, have outside interests and take time off to refresh and recreate, so that we don't burn out. However, at times like Christmas and Easter, it is necessary for us to be on deck and working hard to serve those to whom we minister. My supervisor commented to me that Christmas is a time when we can't always be as creative as we would like to be, as there is just so much to do (with extra worship services and other seasonal activities) that there often just isn't time to create something out of nothing for every occasion. The "don't reinvent the wheel" policy was used to great effect in the fact that I got to deliver my Christmas Homily 4 times (at two different Carols services, at a chapel service in an aged care facility and in a special service in a dementia unit)- each time slightly modified to fit the congregation, but essentially the same base message.
Perhaps this is one of the sacrifices that is necessary in this line of work and ministry (and allowable, as opposed to the more general, unhealthy workaholic tendencies that the college is trying to train out of us), and it may be that as I move into life as a minister, I may need to get used to having a personal 'belated Christmas' when I do actually get a chance to sit down and stop and reflect.