I've not pastored since the spring of 2004, and so I have the perspective of a good many years on this subject.
I have, of course, been in church all that time—for five years as director of missions for the SBC churches in the New Orleans area, retiring in 2009—and probably two-thirds of the Sundays have been preaching in churches far and wide, big and small, contemporary and traditional, impressive and otherwise.
I have always loved the Christmas season. I enjoy the constant carols in the department stores (although I confess that Brenda Lee's "Rock Around the Christmas Tree" and a couple other seasonal things have outlived their usefulness with me) and browsing the stores and the displays some stores still make. I'm good with "Happy Holidays" or "Season's Greetings" as well as "Merry Christmas." One is as scriptural as the other.
If I were the pastor, once again, of a church during the Christmas season, here are a few things I would do:
- I would plan my calendar to include family time and "do nothing" time. The human spirit needs such rest periods.
- I would visit every nursing home in the area with gifts. I would take along a child or two.
- I would make myself available for every retirement home/assisted living place to do a short Christmas program during December and would bring gifts to all the residents.
- I would make sure the Angel Tree program was alive and well in my church, as it blesses the families of incarcerated prisoners.
- I would support the Operation Christmas Child with its shoe boxes.
- I would never pass a Salvation Army kettle without making a donation. I do this now, but if I were pastoring, I'd encourage my flock to be generous here too.
- I'd promote our denomination's big Christmas offering for international missions, and one thing more: I would not worry about protecting the people from requests for money. As a friend told me, "I don't have to protect my people's billfolds; they do that themselves."
- I would overeat, of course, because I always do at this time of the year.
- I would do two things at every musical presentation at my church: Welcome everyone at the start and then conclude the program with a brief presentation of the message of Christmas and an invitation for people to give their hearts to Christ.
- I would carve out some quiet space on my calendar for myself and for my wife and me to be alone and still and together. (I'm aware I already said this more or less above, but it's important enough to repeat.)
- I would learn all the great Christmas events going on in my area (say, a hundred-mile radius) and choose two or three of the most interesting to attend with any family members willing to join me. I would worship the Lord Jesus Christ at every opportunity.
- I would labor to learn how to read Scripture aloud for my people in better ways than I do now. And if I found someone—a teacher or an actor or anyone—gifted in the public reading of Scripture, I would bring him/her to my church and put them to work.
And one thing more: When Christmas Day was over, I would not take the next week as vacation. Nothing much is going on in town that week, and nothing is happening at church. So, this is a perfect week to hide in the church office and work on sermons for the New Year and beyond. Enjoy each evening with the family. Watch some ball games. Sleep late in the mornings.
Merry Christmas to you and yours. Heaven loves you enough to provide a Savior for you, for now and for always. You are amazingly blessed. Revel in it, friend.
Enjoy the joy.
After five years as director of missions for the 100 Southern Baptist churches of metro New Orleans, Joe McKeever retired on June 1, 2009. These days, he has an office at the First Baptist Church of Kenner, where he's working on three books and trying to accept every speaking/preaching invitation that comes his way.
For the original article, visit joemckeever.com.
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