Christmas is my favorite time of year. But often, it’s also the busiest time of the year. Most pastors I know would say the same. Pastors often feel pressure to craft sermons on the incarnation that are new and fresh. Pastors are often asked to be part of every Christmas celebration within smaller groups in the church. Pastors are often tasked with helping plan and facilitate extra worship services during the Christmas season. And not to mention, the extra activities with family and loved ones that accompany Christmas.
5 Ways You Can Pray for Pastors During Christmas
In light of these realities, if we’re not careful, we pastors can easily allow a season meant to bring joy and peace to instead overwhelm us with stress and anxiety. This means pastors are in great need of prayer during the Christmas season. Here are five ways you can pray for pastors during Christmas:
1. Pray their love for Christ would remain fresh. Jesus said he would shut the doors of a church that abandoned their first love (Revelation 2:1-7). If that’s how Jesus feels about a church that has lost its first love for him, how might he feel about a pastor who has done the same? Sadly, amid the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season, it is surprisingly easy for pastors to go through the motions with a cold heart. We may “toil,” “patiently endure,” and “bear up for Jesus’ name’s sake” (Revelation 2:2-3), but if we do it all mechanically without love, Jesus will not be pleased. So pray that pastors would grow deeper in their intimacy with Christ and that their love for him and his image-bearers would remain fresh this Christmas season.
2. Pray they would not neglect time with family. With all the demands of pastors during the Christmas season, they are almost always tempted to sacrifice time with family. First of all, a word to pastors: don’t do it. Not just at Christmas, but at any time. “For if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?” (1 Timothy 3:5). A pastor will therefore need wisdom as to how to navigate the packed schedule, and more importantly, when and how to say “no” to good things in order to say “yes” to the best thing—loving his family and creating memories at Christmas with them that will last a lifetime. Thus, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him” (James 1:5). Pray that God would grant this wisdom to pastors during Christmas.
3. Pray they would know they don’t have to be fancy with their sermons, just faithful. The longer a pastor serves in ministry, the more and more he feels the pressure to come up with something new for Christmas. Sure, our sermons shouldn’t be microwaved from years prior. And we ought always to do our best to present ourselves “to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). But if we’re not careful, we can become so consumed with coming up with new sermons on the incarnation that we are overtaken by a desire not to be faithful to the text, but to be clever with novel ideas.
The fact of the matter is that the age-old truth of the incarnation is just that, age-old—eternal, timeless, and therefore always powerful and relevant. No matter what biblical texts we end up preaching, the central truth we are communicating at Christmas remains the same, “that Christ came into the world to save sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15). So pray for pastors who face this temptation at Christmas. Pray that they would know that they don’t have to be fancy with their sermons, just faithful. Not clever, just consistent with the biblical text with Christ at the center.
4. Pray God would grant supernatural strength to minister to those for whom Christmas is difficult. While Christmas is a great time of celebration for many people, for others the season is quite difficult. In any church, there will be saints whose family members have passed, perhaps even recently, and who will be gathering with empty seats around their Christmas table this year. Other church members have lost loved ones in years past during the Christmas season. Still some will be struggling with the financial side of Christmas, wishing they could afford to give more.
While Christmas will bring cheer to many, for these dear brothers and sisters, Christmas will be accompanied by pain. Pastors are called to minister well to these suffering saints. How can a pastor simultaneously serve those who are rejoicing and those who are grieving? Not of himself, but only by the supernatural strength that God supplies. Therefore, pray that “according to the riches of his glory he may grant [pastors] to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in [their] inner being” (Ephesians 3:17). As pastors simultaneously rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep at Christmas (Romans 12:15), pray that God would equip them “with everything good that [they] may do his will, working in [them] that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen” (Hebrews 13:21).
5. Pray they would not be so wrapped up in ministering to others that they miss out on the joy of the Advent season. Simply put, the birth of Christ was for our joy. “And the angel said to them, ‘Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people” (Luke 2:10). The good news of not just any kind of joy, but of great joy. The announcement of Christ’s birth was for the great joy of the shepherds, and the yearly celebration of Christ’s birth is for our great joy too. Pastors can get so wrapped up in ministering to others at Christmas that we forget to slow down and take in the glorious realities of the incarnation of Christ. Pray that pastors would pause and ponder the wondrous mystery of God becoming a man that we might have a Savior, Christ the Lord (Luke 2:11). Pray that pastors would be consumed with the great joy that the God-Man has brought us at Christmas.
Christmas is indeed my favorite time of year. Many pastors I know would say the same. But we also know the dangers of growing cold in our love for Christ this time of year, along with the temptation to neglect time with family and become clever with novel sermons, the challenges of ministering to hurting families, and the possibility of missing out on the joy of it all. So join me in praying for pastors during the Christmas season, that they will abound in love for Christ, stay devoted to their families, remain faithful to his Word, develop a tenderness toward those suffering, and be filled with the great joy of the good news of Christ’s birth.