Put your hands over your ears and listen.
Do you hear that? It’s not the whir of a cooling fan in the back of your laptop, nor is it the whine of a printer cranking out the Christmas Eve bulletin.
What you hear is breath filling your lungs. Blood moving through your veins. The beat of your heart.
Keep your hands there long enough to memorize those sounds. You are not a machine, an electronic supercomputer designed to efficiently program the meaning of the advent season for others. You are not a robot veiled in flesh to provide quaint worship experiences for visiting relatives.
You are a human being. An eternal soul. A beloved child of God.
Before you are anything else, this is what you are. And this is mostly good news.
“Mostly”, because there is some difficulty that arises from that knowledge. There are plenty of demands that ignore your humanity. Your calendar fills up with every Christmas party for every group in the church. The entrepreneurial side of you knows this is a season for visitors and wants the worship service to be perfectly prepared. You desk gets covered with sticky notes reminding you of people to pray for or visit or otherwise try to help out, since Christmas may not be so wonderful for them.
To set limits for the demands is one of the most difficult task in any helping profession. We don’t want to disappoint anyone, much less someone who may be trying out church again after a long time away, or who is still grieving the loss of a child, or who has recently lost her job.
But remember what you heard when you covered your ears. Air and blood. Reminders of frailty. Some limits are already set for you. Your strength has boundaries. You will never have enough to give, not this time of year. You of all people know that you cannot make things right, because you can see the chaos of the world, the thousands of reasons not to hope.
It’s exactly at this point, when you are overwhelmed by your own weakness and the world’s darkness, that the good news of your humanity begins.
As long as you stand outside of your humanness, you cannot really lead anyone through the drama of Advent. You may be a skilled tour guide, or perhaps a good circus barker. But you only speak about the season. You never really enter into it.
That’s what people really need, you know. Someone with a real heart, one that weeps among the shattered fragments of the broken world. Someone who nonetheless stands in wonder, who truly anticipates God’s intervention.
Advent calls you into something beyond frantic professional activity. It pleads with you to do more than proclaim hope and joy and peace and love. It calls you to embody those things, to live openly in the Christ-light, to acknowledge the darkness without submitting to it.
Just as Lent calls you to share in the death of Christ, so does Advent call you to share in his incarnation. You as a church leader can never do that so long as you define success as productivity. Only by allowing yourself time and space to be human can you truly become like Jesus.
So stop. Breathe. Come to life, even amidst the darkness. Embody the hope you profess.
The Light is coming, and is within you, and is already here.