January 14, 2016—It’s two Christmases too late, but this Advent and Christmastide, somewhere along the way, Elsa’s song finally stopped being a reason to idolize Edina Menzel and touched a cord. I think I was finally able to Let It Go…
In the song she sings about freeing yourself to be yourself, but in the cultural zeitgeist, the song became about letting go in the more traditional sense, loosening one’s grasp and letting be what would be. Perhaps both apply to clergy at this time of year.
I didn’t think it would be this way. After 12 Advents in a solo pastorate, the 13th would be my first as head of staff in a multi-staff church. I was very concerned that, despite incredible confidence in my colleagues, I was going to revert to form and micromanage everything to a fair-thee-well and tick off everyone.
Shockingly, in many ways the issues of the season in a church 10 times the size of my former call were the same…when do we schedule Christmas Eve services, do we schedule a special service for Blue Christmas, when will the choir(s) sing, when will the bells play, when will we sing Christmas carols and when will we sing only Advent carols, how will the kids be involved in the family service, etc., etc., falalalala, blah blah blah blah. What was different was how many people were involved in answering those questions, the need for the answers to come sooner and the need to communicate everything more broadly and effectively.
But all of those extra people were also a huge part of the blessing for me. More people meant more variables and very quickly it became clear that if I tried to micromanage, I would never make it.
I wonder if it was like that in the flurry of activity that night in the cave or public room or stable or whatever place the scholars have decided this year the events of Luke 2 took place. Both Mary and Joseph had been visited by messengers who told them they weren’t having just any baby, not just another beloved child of God, but THE child of God.
Imagine the pressure of starting out on a journey you had been told would lead to your child being the savior of a people, if not the whole world.
Thank goodness infants need round the clock attention. Thank goodness Mary and Joseph were too busy being to spend too much time trying to manage what was happening. Thank goodness for fussy boilers and absent snow removal crews and Sunday bulletins and unplanned pastoral calls. Thank goodness congregations need our attention in Advent and Christmas just like they do the rest of the year. It’s our best chance of being witnesses to the incarnation rather than trying to manage it.
It’s why our only way to make it through was to let it go.
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Michael D. Kirby (MDiv ’03) is pastor and head of staff at Northminster Presbyterian Church in Evanston, Illinois just north of Chicago, a position he began in June, 2015. He is serving as one of (former CTS professor) Kim Long’s minions in the 25th Anniversary revisions to the Book of Common Worship.
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