The Church offers us Advent and Christmas as a time to be refreshed and renewed, but if you’re a priest, deacon, or lay minister, the holiday season can feel overwhelming.
How do you use this time to serve others and feel renewed in your own spiritual life?
Here are some things to reflect on as you approach the holiday season as a ministry leader.
Pray While You Serve
What does that look like for a busy ministry leader?
First of all, it doesn’t require clearing your schedule or putting off other responsibilities. While setting aside a specific block of time for prayer each day is part of the Christian life, there is also a precedent for incorporating prayer into everything we’re doing.
“The time of business does not with me differ from the time of prayer; and in the noise and clatter of my kitchen, while several persons are at the same time calling for different things, I possess God in as great tranquility as if I were upon my knees at the blessed sacrament.”
We worship a God who understands the demands that life and ministry make on our physical and emotional energy, and he will meet us in our work and our rest if we set our hearts on him.
Rest assured that you can pray while decorating the Church for the holidays, printing extra bulletins, and setting up Giving Trees, and that time can be as valuable as the minutes or hours you spend in stillness and solitude focusing on God.
There’s a special element to anticipating a great event that gives us the ability to take on more work than normal and yet not feel as drained or worn out. There may be physical tiredness, but the anticipation keeps our minds fresh and our spirits renewed.
During Advent, reflecting on the event of Jesus’s birth – the Lord of All coming down to earth to redeem it, and his eventual return – the King of All coming back to reign forever, can add excitement and a renewed sense of calling to our ministries.
Taking time to reflect on these great mysteries can infuse our busy-ness with an energy that comes from the Spirit, and that excitement can build as Christmas draws near. This is truly a gift from God.
Work Out of Your Rest
It’s hard to imagine what the scriptures mean when they say that God rested, but we can be sure that it wasn’t because he didn’t have any energy or passion left to continue working.
As servants of God and the Church, we tend to work tirelessly out of commitment to God and his people, devotion to the Church, and to fulfill the deep sense of meaning and purpose we derive out of our work.
As much as ministry is an act of love on our part, it is still activity that cannot be sustained without rest.
God gave us the Sabbath for many reasons, and the ability to rest is a spiritual discipline in and of itself.
There should be periods of work and rest in every day, not just on Sundays. The Genesis account, which first mentions the Sabbath, reminds us that “there was evening and there was morning” on each day of the Creation Narrative.
If we see our week as a series of days to work as hard as possible and Sunday as the only day or period of rest, we may develop an endurance mindset where we force ourselves forward in our work and crash at the end of the week.
Instead, let’s practice periods of rest in each day which provide the foundation for the work we do. Working out of our rest, instead of collapsing into rest as the result of overwork, can do wonders for our spiritual well-being.
Come to the Table
God will meet us during this season in our ministry, providing everything we need to be refreshed and renewed. He provides it through his grace poured out in the Eucharist, and he provides it in the body as we support one another.
Our hope for you is that this holiday season would be full of the realization that God is with you in every moment of your service. May the anticipation of his coming and return fill you with joy, and may his spirit give you rest and renewal as you remain devoted to him.
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