Nearly every year I have offered a “Christmas Prayer for Pastors” because I know what a hectic and demanding time of year this is for those who lead our churches. Perhaps not all church members, and certainly not many visitors who show up during this season, realize how tough it is for their pastors to be able to celebrate Christmas themselves (and with their families) in the midst of preparing and leading so many Christmas celebrations for others. I can remember many years of coming home on Christmas Eve, actually early on Christmas morning, after leading and preaching at several Christmas Eve services, and trying to muster the strength to assemble toys and other Christmas gifts for my children. 

Even more, I can remember many years when my Advent and Christmas preparations were interrupted with urgent but unexpected pastoral needs – like illnesses, deaths, funerals, marriage disruptions, threatened suicides, etc. Trying to handle those pastoral needs in the midst of preparations for extra Christmas celebrations can be quite demanding. 

I especially remember one Christmas Eve when the Worship Committee of our church decided to forego having those little candles that everyone enjoys lighting while singing “Silent Night.” Even though that was not my decision, guess who spent most of Christmas Eve having parishioners and especially visitors literally yell at me for “ruining” their Christmas?

Yes, Advent and Christmas can be a tough time for pastors and their families. So I offer this prayer for them, in hopes that God will strengthen them for these busy days, but also in hopes that all of us will be more understanding if things are not “perfect” for us. Please join me in this prayer:

Gracious God, whose coming we celebrate during Advent and Christmas, may You come swiftly and powerfully to the pastors and the people of Indiana. Protect those who are traveling, guide those who lead, comfort those who grieve, and strengthen those who are weakened by illness, by heartache, or by discouragement. 

Especially I pray, O blessed Lord, that You may bring JOY into the lives and ministry of our pastors. Let their preparations for worship services be blessed with responsive parishioners and visitors. Let their sermons be filled with the power of Your Holy Spirit speaking and working through them. Let their hectic times be balanced with times of peace and reflection. Let their ministry during this Advent and Christmas time bear the fruit of the JOY of this season not just for those they lead, but also for themselves and their loved ones.

And may You, O God, grant each pastor a time of personal respite and renewal during the afterglow of Christmas, so that Christmas JOY may be fully born in each one of their hearts this season.

I ask these things, most Gracious God, in the name of the One whose coming we celebrate, even Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.