By: Todd Elliott
It’s the week of Thanksgiving in the United States. Be honest now, how many of you have put up your Christmas tree already? It’s OK if you’ve put up your outdoor Christmas lights, because you definitely need to take advantage of any warm weather you can. But your Christmas tree? You’ve got to wait.
In my house, not only do you not put up the tree until after Thanksgiving, but we have a rule that you can’t just start playing Christmas music whenever you feel like it. You’ve got to wait. And when the time does come, the first song has to be “Mele Kalikimaka” by Bing Crosby. It is the only way the Elliott’s can enjoy the rest of the Christmas season.
As technical artists, for many of us the build up to our Christmas began well before this week. That first brainstorming meeting about Christmas that happened a few months ago was our version of “Mele Kalikimaka”. And as we enter into this week of Thanksgiving, our final push to the finish line of Christmas services will begin.
This has always been a tough week for me…knowing that the long days and late nights would start up and last for a while. Normally, I would already start putting my head down and just push to the finish line. But this year, before we do that, I would encourage all of us to take this week to look down the road and figure out a few key moments to pick your head up and stop pushing so hard. Just for a moment. Our lives are made up of many parts and it isn’t good for us to only focus on that one thing for so long.
Look for places in the calendar to make some memories with your family. Your spouse and your children need you. It is important for them to build strong memories of this time of year. Doing it without you isn’t the best idea. And all the memories to be made will be better with you in them.
Don’t just leave this up to your spouse to figure out. Work it out together. Take some time this week to strategically make plans to have meaningful time as a family together.
If you are single, you still have a family. Be strategic with them. Or maybe it’s with your friend group. Make plans. Don’t just spend all your energy on the Christmas services.
Our teams are cranking on making Christmas amazing for your congregation. At this time of year especially, it is very easy for the task to take over, which in turn leads people to feel like simply a means to an end. Make sure that there is time and space built in for community, where people can just be people. At Willow Creek, our systems team used to provide “Holiday Cheer” for the rehearsal and services. It was basically cheese balls, dips, munchies, cookies, punch, etc. It was a chance to simply enjoy being together.
When there is so much work to get done, it is easy to push relationships to the side. If you are the leader of the team, be strategic and be intentional to make time around the task to experience team moments.
It can be very easy to empty yourself out completely for a Christmas service and have nothing left at the end of it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been basically comatose on Christmas Day with my family. Find some time to set aside and connect with why you decided to get into production in the first place. Get back in touch with those thoughts. Hang onto them when things get tough.
Along with this exercise, consider reading the Christmas story in Luke 2. Or possibly going through an Advent Reading to experience the promise, anticipation, peace and joy of Christ during this season. (John Piper’s “Dawning of Indestructible Joy” and Dietrich Bonhoffer’s “God is in the Manger” have been good for me.) We can be so busy “doing” Christmas that we don’t ever stop to remember what Christmas is about in the first place.
Whether your church is doing services as normal or you’ve got some new schedule with pre-recorded content and a drive through Christmas experience, don’t let the season swallow you up. Make time this week to prepare yourself for what lies ahead.
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Need some community and prayer during this time? Reach out to us and let us know how we can pray for you, your family, your team, and your church this holiday season!