I’m very conscious of demands that Christmas brings on ministers and their families in this festive season. I’m currently preparing for Christmas #29 as a minister. It should have been #30 but I skived off one time making the most of the opportunity that a shift between parish ministries gave me!
I know we all like to be creative and fresh each Christmas but the simple reality is that we are coming to the year’s end and most of us are catching a sniff of holidays looming close… so we box on, stagger, or limp towards 11am on Christmas Day, and often present ourselves to our families as tired wrecks… Every now and then I wish Jesus was born in September!
So… I want to encourage and give my colleagues a thumbs-up… you might be boxing on, staggering, or limping, or you might be one of those amazing characters who is firing on all cylinders… whatever you are, I want to say that you rock… despite the challenges you step up and do your best and serve the people in your care with honesty and your hearts and souls… so keep rocking, and rest well my friends!
Just in case you are flailing and flagging a bit I want to share the following prayer that our colleague Rev Dr Andrew Nicol prepared and delivered at the Licensing Service for the three graduated and highly-skilled interns in Alpine Presbytery: Esther Sarbey, Charissa Nicol, & Jono Barb. Whatever Andrew was intending in the prayer as an encouragement to those three, I found the prayer to be a helpful reminder to me of what an essential posture in pastoral ministry is all about. I found myself back at my own Licensing at my home church of St Paul’s in Timaru in 1988, and reliving that moment but now with Andrew’s new refreshing words.
Here it is… maybe you can read it with your name inserted…
Loving and gracious God of life we thank you that you have not just recently begun to beckon Esther, Jono, and Charissa, but you have sought them, like a shepherd searching for the wayward sheep, like a woman and a precious coin, like a father with lost sons.
We give you thanks for this part of their journey, and in so doing recognise them as sheep of your fold, as your children. May they always know that their service to your people is service to their Lord. Just so, let them continually revisit the source of their ministry; their dying and being raised with you—their baptism, and let them regularly crawl back to it.
Wise God preserve them from the cult of brilliant personalities and instead continue to make of them faithful servants. Help them to remember that you Lord Jesus are our great High Priest, which means that they are not. So may your faithfulness free them to trust in you and accept that they cannot do all that is demanded of them.
As their training and licensing leads to further discernment let each one of them recall that no Christian ministry has power—save that it be a participation, by your Spirit, in your Son. The same Son who leads creation into the worship and joy of the Father for the sake of the Father’s world.
All seeing God free them from keeping up appearances, bless them with good friends, give them Sabbath rest and prayerful hearts. Despite what they are told and the world claims, Lord Jesus may you always be their definition of what is real. Fix their vision on you that they might perceive that the end game is not the church but your new creation.
Lead all of us, church, family and friends, to listen well as their journey continues. Sending God, seeking God, God who is always ahead, may these three also know that you are always behind and beside. Accompany them and us and help us all to abide in you. Amen