Sadly, Advent is a low point spiritually for most Christian leaders.
This was surely the case for me–especially in my early years. I was told Christmas was THE time we had to do everything possible to get as many people to the church. I was told that the number of visitors at Christmas Eve services would indicate our growth over the next year. I was also told this was THE time to close the financial year strong, THE time to thank all our leaders, and THE time for me to model reaching out to our neighbors for Christ.
This results in very few of us actually celebrating the wonder of the Incarnation, that the truly divine Son of God became truly human mortal flesh in Jesus of Nazareth.
Here are my top 4 Advent killers along with their antidotes:
- 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.” How much of your busyness is really about your anxiety?
- Rushing. The one who hurries delays the things of God (Vincent de Paul). Rushing is violent to your soul, to those you love, and to those you aim to serve. Ask yourself: “What am doing that God may not be asking me to do?” What good is it to gain the world and lose your soul? If you are married with children, is it God’s will that they get your leftovers? That you return home often depleted – emotionally, physically, and spiritually? How might you be rushing through Advent?
Antidote: Slow down and be silent before Him.
- Ignoring God’s Limits. Hosting. Decorating, Gift giving. Additional church services. Parties. Pastoral emergencies. Leading. The list is endless. When we violate and cross the line of God’s limits for us, we end up weary. Very weary. Only God is God. We are not. John the Baptist said it best: “A person can receive only what is given to him/her from heaven” (Jn. 3:27). Our limits of time, energy, intellect, spiritual fullness, etc. are His gifts to us. What red lights might you be driving through today?
Antidote: Receive your limits as a gift.
- Forgetting the Mustard Seed. Jesus repeatedly described the nature of his kingdom using agricultural images like the mustard seed. No matter how hard we work, even if it is 60-80 hours a week, a plant can only grow so quickly. We may water and weed the plant, but only God gives the increase. And he does that very slowly – like a mustard seed. Even a Pentecostal outpouring is always followed by the hard work of discipleship and tending to the seeds He has planted.
Antidote: Remember God’s ways.
May the peace of Jesus fill you this Advent season.