I wouldn’t exactly call myself a Christmas Eve Veteran, but it isn’t as if I’m a rookie either. I am smack dab in the middle of what most would call “journeyman status” as a pastor who is navigating the self-imposed stress of one of the biggest nights of the year.
Christmas Eve is the Super Bowl of the church, and most churches usually have double their attendance (at least). Our church is no different, and in every effort to put our game face on we were able to learn some things along the way. Here are my top five lessons from Christmas Eve 2015:
1. Stressing out early prevents stressing out late. This year we worked really hard to prepare early. We had practices, we ran through music and media. All the work put in ahead of time gave us an opportunity to have a relatively stress-free worship celebration. In other words: We worried about it early enough so that on Christmas Eve we were ready for anything that could have happened.
2. I can always apologize on behalf of the church. On Christmas Eve we have more visitors than at almost any other time of the year. Not only do we have visitors, but we have people who have come back to church after being hurt. For the second year in a row I have apologized on behalf of the global church, and for the second year in a row it has been so well received. The Holy Spirit continues to remind me how important it is to make amends for the hurt in the world, especially if that hurt was caused by the church.
3. We have to be who we are. On Christmas Eve I will admit that I “church watch.” I watch what other churches do, and how they go above and beyond to make an impression on their guests. While that is a good practice for research, it is not a good place to live. We have to do what only we can do, and not worry about anyone else.
4. People are generous. This year for our Christmas offering we gave all of it away, not only did we give it away, we did it to support refugees who have been displaced because of war and travesty. While it would be easy to ignore this request and say it is political, our people responded to the humanity. So far we have brought in over 7k dollars towards this noble effort. I continue to be blown away by the generosity of this community.
5. We can’t pray enough. Honest confession, we forgot to pray before the start of one of our services, and it really through me for a loop. We had prayed leading up to the event and we prayed before the other services, but missing that one prayer was enough to upset the balance in my heart. I was reminded that it is impossible to pray too much before something like this.
Lessons learned are a great way to remember what you want to do going forward. Whether in church, or in life it is critical that we never stop learning.
What did you learn about yourself this Christmas season?