I love Christmas and I love youth ministry.
When they happen together in the same month (like they do every year) it brings a Buddy-The-Elf type of joy to my face. I want to be like Buddy when I grow up.
When I think about it, I realize that I don't need much. I'm grateful that I get to spend my days doing something that I love and that I get to spend time walking together with teenagers, families, and leaders.
My favorite gifts are the hand-made ones. Friendship bracelets, chocolate covered Oreos, Christmas ornaments...one time a lovely young lady in my youth group sewed a hand bag for me. It's the most beautiful handbag that I own. I know she spent a lot of time on it. Kate Spade, Coach, Louis V...you've got nothing on Emily.
I started thinking about what I want for Christmas. What I would ask for if Santa himself were sitting in my office. And it occurs to me, that he (little "h") is not sitting in my office and that He (big "H") is. My heart is warmed. I can feel God's Presence and my list of secret wishes start to melt into the wishes that really bring me life.
Maybe you have a list?
Maybe it includes a new book, a great pair of heels (if you're a dude, I hope it doesn't include a great pair of heels and maybe you want some manly hipster boots), a vacation, a microwave, tickets to March Madness, that very cool thing you saw on Pinterest, a Stendig calendar, a SHINE zip-up hoodie, the Pioneer Woman's cookbook, house cleaning services, some outdoor patio furniture or a fire pit? I should stop before I get too specific (wink).
These are all nice things. Nothing wrong with them at all.
But if you want to know what a youth pastor really wants....
Ten more ministry leaders who will multiply Kingdom efforts. Adults who love teenagers as much as you do and want to see spiritual hearts for Jesus grow.
Nine people who will learn how to run sound and lights, and how to advance slides on a computer. People who understand that we need technical help.
Eight get away and dream your head off days each year. (I'm blessed to work at a place that gives pastors one of these a month. It is by far the most productive, restful, and fulling day for me.)
Seven worship leaders. Singers and instrumentalists who want to lead teenagers because they love God and love others. They don't want another gig, they want Jesus.
Six certified, insurance approved, background checked, willing to be on call van/ bus drivers. Preferably ones who aren't offended by a little background noise.
Five "get-out-of-jail-free" cards, for those times when we mess up, communicate poorly or fail to communicate, for the day when you forget the basketball game and your board report and whatever food you left in the office fridge.
Four awesome friends. Friends that aren't afraid of us, our schedules, or our pizza eating. Friends who will notice when life's margins are getting smaller and lend a hand, provide a hug, a cup of coffee, or a conversation. They speak the truth in love. They steal you away from work and help you take a load off. They're good and fun and forgiving.
Three partnerships with peers and co-workers (3 at the least!). Relationships that are edifying and helpful, but also challenging so that little puddles of creativity can splash into every area of life, work, and ministry.
Two date nights a month. Lord, grant us a babysitter, a meal we don't have to cook, a mess we don't have to clean up.
One happy family. The type that weathers life's switchbacks and celebrates the smallest milestones. One family, together at Christmas, celebrating the one eternity changing life that now lives in us.
I pray for the space to remember Jesus. Give us some time and a place set-part from busyness to squeeze every drop out of each moment. I pray we won't be to cool or too proud to pray for help. To whisper thanks or say "yes" when God prompts us to do something.
May Christmas happen around dinner tables and on couches, among friends and family snuggled up in traditions and "I hope dad doesn't catch the house on fire" hopes and dreams. May Christmas be full of surprises and joy--as we remember that HE IS WITH US.