It's a busy time of year, isn't it?
For preachers, the challenge of finding time to get a sermon ready only intensifies around Christmas.
I caught up with a clergy friend about how her Christmas preparations are going. After describing the various family festivities and kids' concerts and parties she has, she listed off her church activities: pageant rehearsal and Christmas cookie exchange and interdenominational caroling and warm blanket distribution and double-checking and proofing all the bulletins, and so on.
I asked her when she had time to prepare her Christmas sermon, and she looked at me wide-eyed.
"I don't know, really," she said. "I will just make myself sit down between things and get it done."
While I have no doubt about this—like many of my colleagues, this friend is super-competent and organized—I wondered aloud if this was really her preferred method of sermon prep.
"Not really," she admitted. "But how else am I going to get the time, with everything else I have to do?"
At Christmas time, especially, finding time to prepare a sermon is a challenge.
And resting in God as we prepare to preach can feel impossible.
I get it. I really do.
I am a preacher, too, and I have a full personal and vocational life.
I know what it is like to have to wedge sermon prep time into wherever I can get a spare minute.
But this year, I have a radical idea: getting ready to preach goes first on my calendar.
An hour a day—a prime, healthy hour—to rest in God's presence and listen for Good News and craft the words I will use to express.
I will not make this time another item on my to-do list, though.
I will view this as a time to prepare myself fully for the holy privilege of stepping in the pulpit.
And if that prep time includes mulling things over in a warm bath, working out my outline on a frosty walk in a quiet forest, or simply sitting in a pew in the empty church, then even better.
I need that time with my soul and God's story to be the preacher I am called to be.
If it is good for me personally, too, then that's a bonus.
Think about it. Really, the cookie exchange can happen without you. Even the music and the prayers are good in others' hands.
But the pulpit is yours alone, the place around which the community of faithful will gather to hear how much God loves them.
It is a gift to your listeners to give yourself real, dedicated time on the calendar to prepare your sermon. Especially at Christmas time.
This encouragement isn't to add pressure to your already crazy holiday time.
It's an invitation.
You wouldn't send the little angel out on stage without making sure her glitter wings were just right. You wouldn't put the tree up without knowing what kind of star will go on top, or turn your oven on without gathering your ingredients.
Make an appointment with God—every day—for awe and gratitude, rest and wonder, for miracles and moments that will weave themselves into the Gospel as you share it.
It can happen between the cracks of everything else on the list this year.
Or it can be the anchor of everything else you do.
Happy, holy preaching!
If you'd like to make dedicated time for your sermon prep this season but structure and accountability to help you follow-through, consider joining our Christmas Sermon Bootcamp. You'll meet with a preaching mentor and small group of preachers online for one hour a day, 12/19-12/23 at 3:00 p.m. CST, to craft a Christmas sermon you'll offer with more joy and less stress.