Avoid Seasonal Burnout

Posted by Katherine Angulo and Carolyn Pirtle on Dec 19, 2019 7:08:00 AM
Katherine Angulo and Carolyn Pirtle

Pirtle Burnout Listicle title

For anyone working in ministry, or any parent, or really any human being, the emotional spectrum of the days leading up to Christmas can often range from stressful to beyond chaotic. In a time that is supposed to be about ‘peace on earth toward people of good will,’ these days can feel anything but peaceful, and the risk of burnout becomes very real. 

What follows is a series of brief meditations on the central figures of the Nativity scene, offering Scripture passages for prayer and actions that will hopefully allow you to approach Christmas mindfully, with the intention of carving out a few minutes for quiet and prayer that will bring peace of heart. Pray one each day for the next seven days as part of your preparation to welcome Christ on Christmas morning. You can even create your own crèche while doing so using the link below.


The star is a sign of Christ, who is the true Morning Star. When we look at the brokenness of our world today, where do we see signs of Christ’s presence, and how can we be signs of Christ’s presence to others? 

Pray: “We possess the prophetic message that is altogether reliable. You will do well to be attentive to it, as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.” (2 Peter 1:19)

Action: Spend five minutes in prayer for the world. Pray for peace. Pray for the strength to meet the challenges ahead in a spirit of love. Fast from whatever is most dear to you today and offer it for the good of the people who are experiencing real suffering.


As important as it is to make this time of year special for others, we can’t neglect our own spirituality. In the midst of preparations, it can be difficult to cultivate a disposition of wonder and awe before the mystery of the Incarnation. The angels in all their majesty remind us that the birth of Jesus has changed the entire cosmos forever. 

Pray: “The angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.’” (Luke 2:10–12)

Action: Go outside at night. Depending on where you are, look up at the stars, watch the snow fall, or just breathe in the fresh air. Imagine what it might have been like to see a multitude of angels coming down from heaven. Take a few moments to remember their song—“Glory to God in the highest!”—and thank God in your heart for the gift of his Son.


So many people are lonely and depressed during the Christmas season. If only they knew the “good news of great joy” that we celebrate this season. Are we evangelizing so that our community knows that Jesus has been born for them? Follow your baptismal call to announce the Good News to those around you, even if it takes you out of your comfort zone.

Pray: The shepherds went in haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known the message that had been told them about this child. All who heard it were amazed by what had been told them by the shepherds. Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, just as it had been told to them. (Luke 2:16–18, 20)

Action: Share the story of why Jesus is important to you with one person. Or, write a Christmas card to someone in your life who may no longer practice their faith. Let them know that God loves them, and if they live nearby, perhaps even invite them to attend Christmas Mass with you.

Mary and Joseph

At Christmas, we celebrate the great mystery that God chose to come among us as part of a human family. But the challenges of being either too close or too far from family can prevent us from being present to this mystery. Many people find this season difficult precisely because of their families. How can Mary and Joseph in their contemplation of Christ inspire you to grow in holiness as a member of your own family this Christmas? 

Pray: “When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home.” (Matthew 1:24) “Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.” (Luke 2:19)

Action: Adopt a little mantra that you can say every time you find yourself either missing your family or struggling to be around them. An example might be, “Holy Family, make my family holy.”


At different points in our lives, it can feel like we are like the magi, searching diligently for signs of the presence of Christ. We feel like we need and want and deserve answers—concrete proof that God is present and moving and acting on our behalf. The truth is that God sends us such signs all the time, in the world and people around us. We have only to look with the eyes of faith. And if we find ourselves looking yet still unable to see, we can ask God for the grace to simply persevere in our journey of faith until, like the magi, we see him face-to-face.

Pray: “When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of King Herod, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, ‘Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.’” (Matthew 2:1–2)

Action: Make a list of three people who have made you realize that Christ is alive, and present in your life. Send them a text letting them know your gratitude for making the Incarnation real in your life.


Sometimes we can be as stubborn or as dumb as a mule when it comes to our spiritual life (see Psalm 32:8–9). Do we really get it? Do we get that God himself became a human being for our sakes, so that we might be with God forever in heaven? Do we get it? And if we get it, how will our lives need to change so that we can live into that identity with greater authenticity and freedom?

Pray: “The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world came to be through him, but the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, but his own people did not accept him. But to those who did accept him, he gave power to become children of God, to those who believe in his name, who were born not by natural generation nor by human choice nor by a man’s decision but of God.” (John 1:9–14)

Action: Listen to the song below, or another favorite Christmas hymn. Repeat the refrain to yourself whenever you’re struggling with your preparations or obligations this season: “A child is born, Emmanuel.” A child is born. God-with-us.



Christ is born. For the world. For all people. For you. 

Pray: “And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)

Action: Hold an image of Jesus, perhaps the Baby Jesus figure from your Nativity set. Or, if possible, spend some time this Christmas season in Eucharistic Adoration, praying before Jesus truly present in the Blessed Sacrament. Speak to Jesus openly and simply. Tell him what you really need this Christmas to grow closer to him.

Click the button below to download your own free crèche! 

Download my crèche

Topics: contemplative prayer, downloadable resources, Advent, crèche, Nativity scene, ministry

Living and Handing on the Faith

The McGrath Institute Blog helps Catholics live and hand on their faith in Jesus Christ, especially in the family, home and parish, and cultivates and inspires everyday leaders to live out the fullness and richness of their faith in the simple, little ways that make up Church life.

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