Pastors get Christmas Affective Disorder. I’m surprised it’s not in some medical journal somewhere. Here are the symptoms as I have come to experience them:
1. A fear and even dread of the month of December. It looks. It is coming, sure as St. Nick. With this season comes about six more services, plus everything else that goes into the most stressful month of the year for most Americans.
2. A desire to avoid people. Now I think most pastors who suffer from depression go through periods where they simply want to stay away from people. Probably a result in part of compassion fatigue. But December is worse. For myself, I’d say 60% of the “counseling” I do as a pastor occurs in December and January. It’s crazy. I am afraid to talk to people, yet at the same time I know that they need me now more than any other time of the year. What to do?
3. Sermon meltdown. I’m sure that I recycle more sermons this month than any other month as well. How many more ways can you say Jesus is born for you? When you are stressed, under the gun for time, emotionally strung out, and running on fumes, it is very hard to prepare those memorable sermons. On top of that, there is a very real expectation that the sermons this time of year will be GREAT! The texts are rich and varied. There are more visitors than usual. The need is high. The bar is simply higher. It’s a perfect setup for a meltdown.
4. An elusive sense of Christmas cheer. I want to be cheerful and happy and seasonal. I really, really do. But it is hard. I feel guilty for not being happy and chipper. Which makes me even less happy and chipper. I look at all of the blogs of pastors who are rejoicing so much in Advent and the upcoming Christmastide, and I say to myself, “Why can I be more like them?” I LOVE ADVENT AND CHRISTMAS! Why can’t I get with the program and just be jolly?
So what to do? Here are a few things I try to remember:
A) Jesus comes whether I am Jolly or not. That is the real and true beauty of the season. Our Lord’s Advent is not based on my love, joy, peace, sermons, abilitytointeractwithotherpeople, or whatever else the ailment of the day might be.
B) In the same way, the Word of God is effective, regardless of my personal disposition at the time.
C) Moods change. Just because one day is bad doesn’t mean the next one will be. It may be better. It may be wonderful. That’s the beauty of each new day.
What are your thoughts?