How Christmas Can Steal Worship

How Christmas Can Steal Worship

This time of year is an interesting phase for the worship leader. We’ve just made it through the trick-or-treating and Thanksgiving, and Wal-Mart’s garden center is littered with holiday lawn decorations.

It’s an exciting time. We’re thinking about all the festivities, fun and family time that the winter holiday season brings.

But there is another side of it for me, and, I know, other worship leaders. There’s a twinge of “Bah Humbug” that courses through my veins. The Grinch-side of me creeps in and I start dreading the annual tale of “How the Christmas Stole Worship.”

I consider myself a true worship leader. I’m not satisfied with just playing great songs with excellence. I have a passionate vision to see my church encounter the living God every week. That drive fuels me to challenge and teach my congregation every week, all year long.

That drive and vision runs into December like a freight train, only to be met with an often frustrating and inconvenient challenge called CHRISTMAS.

Don’t get me wrong. I love Christmas! I love busting out the Mariah Carey Christmas album and laughing at Christmas Vacation and Ralphie in his quest of the Red Ryder BB Gun (very spiritual, I know). I love everything about it that everyone else does…everything except…Christmas church services.

I’m probably pretty alone in this in my church. For everyone else, it’s not so much of a challenge and I’m sure it’s very enjoyable. If I was not the worship leader, I would be totally content and probably enjoy the Christmas focus, as we should.

My challenge is simply keeping the “worship” focus in front of my church during this season. There are a lot of worshipful Christmas songs that we all sing every year, but I have definitely seen a drop in the worshipful spirit of my church. The spirit of Christmas, as great as it is, should never replace the Spirit of God.

This is definitely a challenge, but not an impossible task. It’s a worthy challenge and God can do some great things in our midst. We just have to be willing to rise up. Sure, we can dwell on the crowd’s responsibility to worship, but we, as worship leaders, have a responsibility to prayerfully reach a balance. Christmas doesn’t have to steal worship. It can be a time of worship as well.

So, how do we help our church focus on the presence of God more than the presents under the tree?

1. TALK TO YOUR PASTOR—This is so important. If you do not clarify your pastor’s Christmas expectations, December will not be so holly and jolly. I have never regretted submitting to my pastor’s vision, even if it differed from mine. Make sure that you know what is expected. Feel free to challenge sacred cows, but DO NOT attempt something unless you have your leader’s approval. Every year, I intentionally have a conversation with my pastor to find out what kind of direction we’ll be taking in December. Some years we’ve done a Christmas series throughout the month. In that case, I know the Christmas songs will be rolling out a little early and I need to seek and pray for direction on how we can reach a balance with worship. If there’s not a Christmas series, then I know there’s not going to be as much of an urgency to dust off the holiday hymnal. In my years of ministry, I’ve done my share of challenging at Christmas time, but I have always made sure that we are in agreement with the immediate direction. Unity is a priority when you’re ministering TOGETHER and you will unite under the vision that God has given your pastor. When you unite, God loves it (Psalm 100:3) and His presence will be faithful during Christmas.

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Gary Durbin
Gary is the Worship Arts Director at Redemption Chapel in Stow, Ohio. He is also a blogger and a songwriter with a passion to serve the church. He and his wife, Jennifer, have two children and have been married since 1999. You can follow him on Twitter & Instagram @garydurbin or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/garydurbin.

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