Friday, December 14, 2007

The Advent Blues

I love this time of year. I love it when it is dark early, and you can see all the lights go on in the houses... it speaks of cosiness to me. And I love the Advent season in particular. I love lighting the Advent candles, and sitting quietly.

But I am in a funk, and I'm not sure why. I am having a difficult time working... the administrative tasks that every pastor has are piling up, and I don't have the energy, most days, to tackle them. I feel that, generally, things are good in my ministry, in my church, but I am feeling somewhat fraudulent. And I don't mean about the closeted stuff (although I recognize that is always a subtext, always there beneath the surface of consciousness).

When I look at my calendar and see that I worked more than 50 hours each of the last two weeks, with no clear day off, I think, Well, isn't that the deal for all ministers at this time of year? In fact, isn't 50 hours kind of low? Yesterday I took a snow day with my daughter, and I wrote my sermon for Sunday, as well as doing a lot of emailing about this and that committee and this and that project... not really a day off, but also not a day on which I showed up at the office. Reading about a local fatal accident on the road I take to work seems to bolster that as a good decision. But at the end of the day I was left feeling that I hadn't done my work, that I was just kind of... getting by.

And... I haven't seen Beloved since Tuesday, when I took an hour after a meeting near her place of business to stop in and have lunch with her. I am not the sort who needs to be with the object of her affection 24/7 in order to feel ok (any longer... used to be). But I do feel out of sorts when life just spirals us away from one another's orbits. Time of year. Check.

And the daily lectionary readings are just... a downer.

"You looked for much, and, lo, it came to little; and when you brought it home, I blew it away." ~ Haggai 1:9

This too shall pass away. And all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well. But today I have the Advent blues.


parodie said...

Sounds like you had a very productive "snow day"! And that you're awfully busy.

As for the lectionary readings... there's certainly hope there, no?

"14And the Lord stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and the spirit of all the remnant of the people; and they came and worked on the house of the Lord of hosts, their God" (Haggai 1:14)

"to you I say, I do not lay on you any other burden; 25only hold fast to what you have until I come. "
(Rev 2:24b-25a)

Then again, it's all a question of how one reads them... the hope comes out of a pretty dark place.

Take care of yourself.

Cecilia said...

Absolutely, Parodie. There is a word of hope here: if the people will rebuild God's house. And isn't that what the church is (or should be) in all its manifestations?

Thanks for the encouragement!

don't eat alone said...


I think one of the things that exacerbates the blues during this time of year is the season, as it is expressed culturally both in church and without, is so fa la la; there's no room to say, "I'm down." That's one of the reasons we have a Blue Christmas service to allow people to not be in the "Christmas Spirit."

December is always a hard month for me, even in the best of times. There is hope and it's not for nothing that these are literally the darkest days of the year.


Jonathan said...

I have just typed the same sentence three times, and deleted it three times, as I don;t want to sound dismissive, or patronising, i really don't.

But I can;t find a better way of expressing it, so here goes; "We all have these days".

And by that I don;t mean "It's nothing, get over it" or "Stop being self-centred" I really don;t. What I mean is, I recognise this too, and I know lots of other ministers who do as well, so, if it helps, be aware you're part of a huge throng who struggle with the issues of work/life balance, being seen to be doing what folks expect and giving good value for money. Sounds like you're working plenty.

I insist on taking 24 hours for me and my family. OK so deaths and crises can creep in, but on the whole it's a discipline, a sabbath that reminds us God really is capable of spinning the world without our help..

Found your blog via ASBO Jesus, and am touch and inspired by it, thanks.

sharecropper said...

Hey, kid, haven't been around for a while. Sounds like you've really got the burn-out blues, and, yes, that happens to many of us this time of year - including pastors.

But, it's also the time of year when we begin to sing "O Come, O Come, Immanuel" - looking toward the future coming of God - coming as a tiny, helpless baby. Not even able to say the serenity prayer - just dependent on us poorly prepared human beings to keep the Christ alive.

Advent is a down time but also a busy one. A time of preparation. You're right where you need to be - looking at the hopelessness of your routine and yearning for the light of the world. And, the light will come. The oppression and depression in the world will give way to light and life. We will hold candles in the darkness.

"The light shone in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it."

PamBG said...

I'm a new minister of middle age and I've been feeling 'fraudulent' ever since I started ministry about 15 months ago!

And I hate the administrative stuff. I have a long list of stupid things to do (photocopy this and give it to X; take the mail to the church; make sure the fire extinguisher guy comes). Yuck! And then if it doesn't get done people wonder what you've been doing all day!

Thank you, by the way, for your blog and please keep blogging about all aspects of your life and ministry. I think it's a witness to people who view gay and lesbian people as being one-dimensional personalities.

Aghaveagh said...

I came by to visit, haven't been by because of the hecticness of the end of the semester.

It's ok to be a little melancholy, in fact, as the days get shorter and gloomier, it's almost required.

There's a Christmas hymn that has been running through my head for the last week or so, and it seems to resonate with what you are expressing:

And in despair I bowed my head
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth, good will to men.”

Unknown said...

Well, as a parish administrator, I can tell you, it isn't any easier. I have five order of service bulletins to complete in 14 hours next week. They haven't even been started yet -- people keep adding things to my To-Do list faster than I can cross them off. I do what you do -- work overtime that is unreported and unrecompensed, at least, in this realm.

What keeps me holding on sometimes is the expectancy of Advent. I know that very well -- my firstborn (and only) child, a son, was born at 10:17 p.m. on December 24th, 1981. I waited and watched throughout that Advent, and I remember it clearly. It saves me sometimes, remembering it over again. And the joy of seeing his face for the first time, several hours after his birth (complications) on Christmas morning.

My favourite Advent carol is "People, Look East!" I sing it in my head all through the season.

"People, look east, the time is near
of the crowning of the year.
Make your house fair as you are able,
Trim the hearth and set the table.
People, look east, and sing today:
Love, the Guest, is on the way."

Cecelia, look east, and like your namesake, sing today. Love, the Guest, the Rose, the MorningStar, is on the way.

Barbara B. said...

I actually really appreciate your acknowledging the 'advent blues'.

Diane M. Roth said...

I tried to leave a comment before, but somehow it didn't make it.

oh well.

I think when it's dark all the time like right now, it's hard not to have the blues, at least once in awhile.

I find that I go up and down a lot.

LittleMary said...

i hear you sister. i am not even reading blogs very much. i know i need to call you. without cell and with too much, i am out of my mind. and i can't barely get excited about my days. i hate it. i can't wait till christmas is over myself. we will talk soon. love you so much.