Imagine you had two big days at work every year. You knew they were coming long in advance. How would you prepare? Would you rest up your energy, get focused, and make sure you did your best and could capitalize on those big days? Or would you schedule a bunch of extra things in the weeks leading up to it so that you were so tired and drained by the time they arrived that you were just glad they were over?
The answer is obviously the former, but many of us pastors do the latter. That’s definitely how we do it in my denomination, which is Lutheran. We schedule extra worships, Bible studies, all kinds of things to make the time before Easter, called “Lent,” special for the people in our churches. And it is. So is Advent, the season before Christmas. In both cases the season before the holiday is special, and that’s great. It really is.
But those two more spiritual seasons before the holiday come at a cost. That cost is that pastors, musicians and other leaders are so burned out by the time Easter and Christmas come that we underperform on those days. We’re not at our best. We aren’t bricklayers or carpenters, where the more time we put in increases our output. When we’re grumpy, tired and just want it to be over, we don’t do our best. We can’t.
It’s not the people in our churches who miss out. They get our best for weeks before. The people who are infrequently or never part of our church are the ones who miss out. They come only on those days, and they get the fumes because that’s all we have left. As a result, we have no energy to even think about how to capitalize on their brief time with us. You would think someone would have developed a way to engage the crowds of infrequent attenders that are there those days in a way that would lead them to return soon. To make Easter and Christmas starts rather than ends. But no one has. Part of that is because it would be very difficult to pull off. I get that. None of us even try, though, because none of us have the energy. We’re too tired. Too relieved. We flop on our couch Easter afternoon and the only prayer we can muster is “Thank you, God, that that’s over.”
Pastors, imagine the amazing sermons you could give on Easter if you hadn’t been killing yourself the last six weeks. Imagine walking into Christmas Eve worship like a thoroughbred at the gate, just waiting for it to spring open so you could deliver the powerful message God had been building inside you for weeks. That may sound like a fantasy, but I don’t think it has to be. Lutheran pastors have masters degrees. We’re smart people. We ought to be able to figure something out.
But lets do it after Easter, ok?