Watch Out for These Christmas Joy Stealers

Sadly, Advent is a low point spiritually for most Christian leaders. This was my experience for years. I was told Christmas was the time to get as many people to the church as possible, to close the financial year strong, to thank all our leaders and to model reaching out to our neighbors for Christ. The problem was that, in the process, I lost the wonder and beauty of celebrating God’s coming in the form of Jesus of Nazareth.

The Top 4 Christmas Killers and What We Can Do to Resist Them.

1. Rushing. “The one who hurries delays the things of God” (Vincent de Paul). Rushing is violent to our souls. The pressure of too much to do, in too little time, causes us to push a button into an “autopilot” spirituality. We end up speaking of profound spiritual realities but our hearts slowly shrink. What can we do? Follow Jesus in withdrawing to lonely places and pray (Luke 5:16).

2. Living in Anxiety. After thirty years of pastoring, I can now say with authority: “The growth and vitality of your ministry is not dependent on the Christmas season.” It depends on God and how you lead throughout the year. Our anxiety keeps us busy. Hilary of Tours, a bishop from the 4th century, said it best: Busyness is “a blasphemous anxiety to do God’s work for him.” What can we do? Relax. God’s work is slow but sure. We want our programs to be flawless and our sermons to flow masterfully. They won’t. They never do. We forget that to be human is to make mistakes. Only God does not make mistakes.

3. Doing too much. Preaching. Gift giving. Adding church services. Writing thank you notes. Tending to pastoral emergencies. The list is endless. When we violate and cross the line of God’s limits for us, we end up weary. Very weary. John the Baptist said it best: “A person can receive only what is given to them from heaven” (John 3:27). When we do more than God asks, we open the door for all kinds of disorder and chaos. What can we do? Listen to the Father and ask him for wisdom and discernment around what is really important this week.

4. Forgetting our greatest gift is who we are, not what we do. Our number one work is to remain deeply connected with the Father, with ourselves, and with those closest to us. What can we do? Prayerfully sit down with your calendar. Ask God: “What is most important, Lord, this week? What can I delegate? What can wait till 2019?”

May we practice his presence this Christmas and, in so doing, offer our presence to those around us.

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Pete Scazzero
Pete Scazzero

Pete Scazzero, after leading New Life Fellowship Church for 26 years, co-founded Emotionally Healthy Discipleship, a groundbreaking ministry that moves the church forward by slowing the church down in order to multiply deeply changed leaders and disciples. Pete hosts the top-ranked Emotionally Healthy Leader podcast and is the author of a number of bestselling books, including The Emotionally Healthy Leader and Emotionally Healthy Spirituality. Pete and his wife Geri also developed The Emotionally Healthy Discipleship Course (Part 1 and 2), a powerful resource that moves people from a shallow to a deep relationship with Jesus.