You can tell because all of a sudden people start dying and the pastor's responsibilities take over from the planned holidays, because that is what pastors do. That is why they became pastors: to be available for families during times of crisis; to provide as much emotional and spiritual support as possible when families are struggling to deal with the sad realities of losing members to inevitable death. It is particularly hard on them at Christmas time because usually Christmas is a time of rejoicing, of hope for the future. When someone dies during the Christmas season there is something about it that seems even more difficult than when a death occurs at other times of the year. As of a few minutes ago there have been 3 deaths brought to my husband's attention since 3 o'clock this afternoon and right now it is 7:30pm.
We have been fortunate, personally, this time around. Scheduling for funerals and interments is not going to interfere with our holidays...at least not yet. It would be difficult to tell our own elderly parents, who are depending heavily on this year's Christmas visit from their only daughter for some badly needed assistance, that we may not make it. For their sake I pray our plans won't have to change.
My husband has spent his evening visiting families, making phone calls and being as much help as he can be. Before all this news came to him he was so tired he was nearly incoherent. He had 2 naps this afternoon after services. It always fascinates me how he can pull himself instantly out of that state when he finds out someone has died and their families are in need. I think the Lord gives him grace to do that. I have seen many pastors undergo a similar transformation when confronted with the needs of other people in the midst of their own need for rest. It is just another indication of the calling God has put upon their lives.
So, lots of folk to be praying for over the coming week. Lots of people to pray with, so share tears with, to encourage as much as possible in the midst of their losses.
It feels good to be able to be there when people are hurting and bewildered, to provide at least some measure of comfort. In times past people have been there for us in the midst of our own grieving over various losses in life. It is a privilege to be able to pay it forward.