The Most Wonderful (and Dangerous) Time of the Year

While every season has its beautiful parts, the Christmas season seems to be more special than every other time of the year. Radio stations don’t switch format to celebrate Columbus Day. Hallmark doesn’t roll out 25 new made-for-TV movies every year for the fourth of July. There are special decorations, loads of food, giving and receiving. We’re intentional about scheduling time with special people. There are many things to love about this season, and I am a card-carrying member of the herd that loves them.

But if we were honest, couldn’t we all list off just as many reasons why this season isn’t so amazing?

Haven’t we all been in the room when giving and receiving turned into something less than great? And how many of us have started off January completely exhausted from trying to “fit it all in”? It doesn’t take much to look at our culture and see that we tend to miss the point of the Christmas season.

If the culture around us is constantly ramping up during the Christmas season (thereby missing the entire point of the season itself), where exactly are they going to learn a better way?
— Pastor Stephen Woodard

And if the culture we live in wasn’t bad enough, it gets even worse for church leaders as we feel the pressure to maximize Gospel opportunities in our churches and our communities. When you add the caroling, the candlelight service, the staff Christmas party and trying to figure out if you should do something nice for your small group leaders (newsflash: you should), it’s no surprise that those in church leadership end up feeling burnt-out after this season.

But if the culture around us is constantly ramping up during the Christmas season (thereby missing the entire point of the season itself), where exactly are they going to learn a better way? Could it be that the frustration, the exhaustion and the repeatedly unmet expectations have more to do with our approach to the Christmas season rather than the season itself?

Over and over again in the Gospels, we see a Jesus who calls us to slow down and be present in the moment. I’m all for maximizing Gospel opportunities, but what if the best way to point your people to Jesus this season is not by adding ten things to their already overloaded calendar? What if it comes in the form of adding one or two things and repeatedly calling your congregation to pay attention to the moment rather than rushing on to the next one?

The Incarnation—when seen correctly—is eternity shaking. God put on flesh and dwelt among us. Jesus came to bridge the gap between God and man by paying the debt of our sin and reconciling us to Himself. What was promised in the Garden—full and forever restoration—took another step toward completion in the manger.

Slow down and savor it.

And then show your church how to do the same.

Stephen Woodard is the senior pastor at Nashua Baptist Church in Nashua, NH.