Christmas is in a week. Everyone seems overbooked and overwhelmed. Many of my clergy friends are barely hanging in there. Getting ready for the extra services is just one of a pastor’s worries in these dark days of December. I’m praying with and for my friends as they provide pastoral care to those who grieve this time of year. I’m worried about them as people misbehave and stress out over budgets and declining revenues. One of my friends has 3 funerals this week, to top it all off.
As I’ve grown into this pastoral role, I’ve learned what it is I need to do to make it through this winter solstice week and still be a decent human being who is kind to children and animals.
Time spent with people in fellowship is a big piece of my mental health at Christmas.
Last week, I took a few days away to be on study leave with a great group of clergy friends. We each brought an issue or project we were working on (personal or professional) and spent time seeking the wisdom of the group. We laughed a lot and enjoyed some good meals. We prayed with and for each other. It restored my soul.
I’ve also scheduled a night at a concert with friends on Dec 23rd. Will I have other things to do the night before one of our bigger nights at church? Probably so. I trust it will get done.
Tonight I am hosting the Session (our church’s ruling body, made up of 12 members elected from the congregation) at our home for our December meeting. We will approve the 2015 budget and conduct the rest of our business. But then we will laugh at our Ugly Christmas Sweaters and eat desserts and drink hot spiced tea, eggnog, and enjoy each other’s company.
Someone who loves me questioned my sanity–hosting a party in my home the week before Christmas. And it may be a valid concern for many other reasons. But hospitality is my spiritual practice at Christmas.
I pulled out the Lefton china dessert plates and tea cups I inherited from my grandmother and decided they were the perfect dishes to use tonight. As I was washing them and getting ready for tonight, I had time to think of my grandmother and all of the parties she hosted. So many parties. There was always some gathering or another in their home. I am so grateful for her example and for the way she taught me to value a good potluck.
Other than my grandmother’s china, this gathering won’t be mistaken for one of her fetes. I have made my mother in law’s spiced tea, but the dessert I’m contributing was made by Trader Joe. My home is clean, (but don’t open the closets).
Hospitality for me is not about being the perfect hostess. It’s about how I order my time. And time spent with friends and loved ones is life giving. Time spent preparing for the time with friends is an offering of love and a reason to step out of the otherwise chaotic rhythm of the holidays.
How do you make it to Christmas?
For those of you experiencing grief, stress, or worry this week, know you are in my prayers. For those of you who have offered me your time in the midst of this holiday craziness, know I am grateful for you.
I was working on a project for a friend’s blog today and this passage from Luke 1 has stuck with me all afternoon, from the Canticle of Zechariah:
“In the tender mercies of our Lord
the dawn from on high shall break upon us,
to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death,
and to guide our feet into the way of peace.”
Holiday blessings and God’s tender mercies to each of you.