How can I survive the stresses surrounding Christmas?

Christmas is a wonderful time of the year. But for us pastors, it can actually be a hazard for our health. The normal stresses of pastoring are compounded by the multiple activities of the congregation and family. Also, during the holiday season, people may tend to be more depressed or take out their frustrations on others. That can add to a pastor's workload. All in all, when facing a predetermined deadline (Christmas is always the same day of the year), the demands on a pastor can be overwhelming. How can we survive?

There are many and varied answers to that question. I would suggest two significant responses:

The first is to tend to your own soul. Yes, the season is demanding and busy and time is precious. However, it is essential to purposely reserve time from your busy schedule, even when it is not convenient, to spend with the Savior. That first Christmas was not a convenient time for the shepherds or wise men. It certainly was not a convenient time for Joseph and Mary. But they all took time to be present with the newborn Jesus. Even if it is only a few quick minutes with Christ, it will help you gain perspective and celebrate the presence of God. That time with Christ will minister to your soul.

Second, it is important to set realistic expectations for the season. Christmas often becomes a reminder that all is not well in our fallen world. And we may find ourselves trying to use the spirit of the season to solve all the world's problems. But we need to retain perspective and set limits to our dreams. For instance, while we will not be able to feed the whole world, we can enjoy a wonderful time at a soup kitchen. We may not be able to buy the perfect gift, but we can enjoy giving what we have. The exhaustion that surrounds the holiday season may stem from our unrealistic expectations.

These are only two of many possibilities that could help us survive the season. It is critical that we not become victims of the season, but see it as an opportunity to proclaim anew the good news of the living Christ born in a manger as the hope of humankind -- and ourselves.