As I was reading emails from some of my colleagues, one of them declared that he was totally exhausted. It has been a good year and there were many fantastic accomplishments but exhaustion sets in as we approach the end of the year. Christmas brings great joy, but it also requires a lot of us. Our choir director said that her favorite holiday was not Christmas but Easter; while she has almost the same amount of music to prepare, the cooking demands on her are much smaller.
For many years, I have taken the week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve as my vacation. I take the whole week off and usually go far away from the church. I also pray that there will be no sick people or people who the Lord desires to take home during that week. This is not because I want to contradict the divine plan, but because there is very little that I can do from far away to comfort people.
I spend this time with my sisters, who know me well and accept me when I am completely empty. There are no alarm clocks, no scheduled meetings, no counseling sessions, and no preaching. This is a time of restoration, rejuvenation, and reinvigoration. By the time I take the flight back home, I feel that I am ready to encounter everything that the Lord will place in front of me.
In the gospel of Mark we find these words twice, “Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat…” (Mark 3:20 and 6:31). Jesus’ response to this situation is “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” Like many of my colleagues in the church and the academy, my breakfasts, lunches, and dinners are often appointments as well. In the business world they have even coined the expression ‘power lunch.’ Yet as important and effective as these meal meetings are, people participating in them often leave exhausted. I must admit that there are days when I feel completely exhausted at the end and it is a good feeling. I look over all the things that I accomplished and feel good about what the Lord has enabled me to do. Nevertheless, I need to pay attention to the times when my body, my mind, and my spirit say to me that it is time to rest and to rest completely.
I pray that my parishioners and my students have found some time to completely relax, to enjoy doing nothing, and to be refreshed and empowered for the next year that will bring opportunities and challenges for each one of us.