Years ago I heard RC Sproul say that Christmas can be a time of anxiety for pastors/teachers. Teachers and preachers deal with the same stressors as everyone else, but are also tasked with teaching on an incredibly familiar story. Because of its familiarity, teachers can overthink it and get too fancy with it instead of simply letting the biblical story speak for itself. This anxiety can even be worse for teachers who’ve been in the same church for many years.
It’s a little crazy that Christmas can cause this angst, but it does. I know because I’ve experienced it myself.
In light of this, I want to share some words, first from John Calvin, and then a few of my personal thoughts to help those of you who may be dealing with this anxiety right now.
In 2 Timothy 2:15, where Paul tells Timothy to “rightly divide” the Word, John Calvin explains that Paul,
“…advises Timothy to ‘cut aright,’ lest, when he is employed in cutting the surface, as unskillful people are wont to do, he leave the pith and marrow untouched. Yet by this term I understand generally, an allotment of the word which is judicious, and which is well suited for the profit of the hearers. Some mutilate it, others tear it, others torture it, others break it in pieces, others, keeping by the outside never come to the soul of the doctrine. To all these faults he (Paul) contrasts the ‘dividing aright,’ that is, the manner of explaining which is adapted for edification; for that is the rule by which we must try all interpretation of scripture.”
Said simply, teachers should aim to teach the Word to edify the listeners. The seasonal task, then, is to build our listeners up with the great truths of Christmas.
Here a a few suggestions to keep anxiety down and yourself on track this Advent season:
- FOCUS: Commit extra time to be quiet for prayer, study and worship. This season is so filled with Christmas “stuff” that you can end up filled with the stuff of Christmas and not filled with the Holy Spirit. The people you influence need YOU to be a stabilizing reminder that Christmas is supposed to be about Jesus.
- SIMPLIFY: Instead of preaching or teaching to other teachers or to find a new angle on an old story for people who’ve heard the Christmas story for decades, speak in simple terms about Jesus and why His birth STILL matters. It’s the greatest story the world has ever heard and it’s interwoven with the story of every individual in the room.
- ENCOURAGE: Statistically, the holiday season has a higher rate of depression than any other. It’s impossible to understand everyone’s pain, but you can encourage them that we have a Savior who does and who will one day wipe away every tear. His first coming should encourage every heart to remember that the Gospel promises He’s coming again.
Believing Him for You,