A Healthier Holiday Perspective

by Sarah Hawbecker

There are certain seasons that are inherently stressful, and we are currently in one of them. There were Christmases past in which it was difficult for me to keep the proper perspective. I felt overworked and underappreciated, and the added pressures I put on myself to have a beautifully decorated home and provide a “perfect” holiday for my family only produced feelings of personal failure and silent resentment toward others whom I believed had it easier than I. Does this sound vaguely familiar to anyone?

One of Merriam-Webster’s definitions of “perspective” is “the capacity to view things in their true relations or relative importance.” If we don’t take a step back and reflect, everything appears to have equal importance, and that just can’t possibly be true. In the rush of the holiday season, taking the time to contemplate perspective will be worth it in the long run.

What will take the most practice time this month? Starting early is always smart. Cramming almost never works. Is this really the year to play all of Bach’s “Vom Himmel hoch” variations? As much as I love them, it may be more important to play something which requires less practice time and that will be more familiar to the listener.

Do I really need to stay up late one night to make homemade gingerbread people for my children’s choir? Sleep is important, so if I don’t have time during the day to bake, I can either get a parent to bring snacks, or buy cookies from the store.

Accepting chaos at the Sunday school Christmas program dress rehearsal is something I learned long ago. This perceived chaos used to give me headaches, but then I was able to “view things in their true relations.” The children’s excitement to be angels and shepherds simply cannot be contained. Raising my voice or getting frustrated with them was not going to accomplish anything. They had learned their songs in previous rehearsals, and they always focused properly when it was the right moment. (I jokingly refer to many of our musical offerings as “Miracle on 4th St.” in reference to the classic holiday movie.)

Prayer can really change our perspective. You may need to pray for yourself if you’re feeling stressed, irritated, or overwhelmed. You can also change your perspective. Early in Advent, say a prayer for that person who complains every single year that we can’t sing Christmas carols the whole month of December. Before you begin your Christmas Eve prelude, say a prayer for the people in the pews whom you won’t see again until Easter, that they may know the love of God incarnate in Jesus Christ. As you drive home in the dead of night after a twelve-hour day at church, give thanks for the part-time musicians who are eking out a living with multiple jobs, and pray for the congregations who are searching for a musician.

Have your experiences changed your perspective? Are you going to try anything different this season to keep yourself mentally, spiritually, emotionally, or physically healthier? Even after thirty-plus years of working in the church, I am still learning, so I’d love to hear your comments.

Posted on Dec 1, 2022 9:00:00 AM
Filed Under: Music Ministry, Filed Under: Advent, Filed Under: Christmas,

Sarah Hawbecker

Written by Sarah Hawbecker

Sarah J. Hawbecker is a graduate of St. Olaf College and the Eastman School of Music. Since 1996, she has served as Organist and Director of Children's Music at Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in Atlanta, GA, overseeing a program of two children's choirs, three handbell choirs, a summer music camp, and a concert series. She has performed for and presented workshops at regional and national gatherings of the Association of Lutheran Church Musicians, and of the American Guild of Organists, and has served as adjudicator for several organ competitions.