First Monday of Advent: Rest
It used to be that I was amazed at people's perception of how pastors move through this season vs. my own experience: I hadn't ever felt burdened down by the sheer weight and volume of extra activities that come during this time.
Yes, there are special events that come, but those are balanced out by people not wanting to have a lot of extra meetings or interactions due to their personal holiday preparations. What results, from my point of view, was a season surprisingly devoid of busyness and stress, as I'd plan what I needed to plan but not feel too rushed while doing it. That was always my happy little secret about this time of year.
Last year, that changed somehow. There wasn't necessarily anything terribly different from what I've done before. In addition to leading worship on Sundays, there was Blue Christmas, caroling to shut-ins, the youth program, and for the first time for me personally, two Christmas Eve services rather than one. I'm not in charge of the youth program and I'm only marginally involved with planning the caroling, so with the exception of one extra service, there wasn't any reason to feel any more overloaded than in years past.
But I did. Maybe having to organize even one extra service and sermon can do that. Maybe the activities just stacked on top of each other in just the right anomalous way so as to get me to feel out of sorts. Maybe this year will be much more breezy and I'll go back to the leisurely pace I've enjoyed.
All I know is that by the time Christmas morning came, I was glad it was all over. I munched my cinnamon roll and watched my kids open their presents, grateful that I could finally just sit and take in the spirit of the day for myself, while also kicking myself for using up all my vacation time already. A longer respite after such a busy time would have been nice.
I've always found December to be restful, where I can take time to linger in the sanctuary and enjoy the decorations and allow "O Come O Come Emmanuel" to seep into my bones without my worrying about the next event marring the experience.
Since this is a week to think about hope, this feeling of rest is what I hope for the most.