Reading time: two minutes. At January’s arrival, we dive right back into the full swing of ministry. Not only has the (brief!) respite of the time after Christmas passed, the season of Lent and Easter is looming not too far away. Many of the stresses for which life in ministry is famous rise up in force during this season. Most pastors, and a large number of educators, believe that they were not fully prepared for the demands of ministry. Loneliness, the sense of flying solo through the storms and expectations of ministry, can descend with a furor. The delicate balance of family and work life is strained when we’ve just gone through one of those “extra-measure” seasons. And that is why Jesus came. The Incarnation, that God came in the flesh, makes a big difference, it makes ALL the difference, as we charge into the challenges of ministry at the beginning of a New Year. Let’s talk about these three challenges of the vocational life of people in Christian ministry. First: we often don’t feel adequately prepared for the work of this ministry. Some would even say, “most often.” That’s very real. We’re all, in a certain sense, in way over our heads. Who of us is up to the task of bearing the gospel of Christ to a world that is so desperately in need of a Savior and so deeply hurting because of sin, and for the most part, ignorant of just how needy they are? Thanks be to God, we are in the Incarnational ministry business. The Word became flesh, and now this flesh and bones of ours is His own instrument for bearing the Word of life to the world. We’re in the Jesus business because Jesus Himself is still in the Jesus business. We’re not prepared, but He is. So off we go, and we do the best we can in the pulpit, classroom, hospital, board room, confident that Jesus is the power behind all we do. We’re not supposed to be adequate, because it is not about us. In our humble, stumbling way, all we do is point to Jesus, and that is enough. Second: loneliness is very real. But the Incarnation makes a difference. His name is still “Immanuel,” because He is still with us. There’s nowhere that you go that the Son of God isn’t with you. He’s always as near as a “Lord, have mercy” and He completely understands the feeling of being all alone. And because Jesus bore the burdens of a human body, He was able to form us into a new body, His own body, to remind us that we are not alone. When feeling lonely, find a trusted friend and the encouragement that the body of Christ is alive and well and that we’re in this together. Third: family life is challenging. We disappoint our spouses and our children and often the responsibilities of ministry are what pull us apart. The Incarnation of Jesus is for the forgiveness of our sins, for forgiveness between us, and for peace and renewal in our homes. When our families suffer, we model grace by asking for their grace, and we begin again. I offer this blessing with absolute confidence, “Christ be with you in your ministry,” because He is with you. Thanks for reading.