Don’t Get Caught in a Season of ‘Doing’ This Christmas

Dr. Nicole Martin, Chief Impact Officer at Christianity Today, joins us for the month of December to talk about her personal definition of Christmas and what it means to her. By the end of our conversation this month, you will likely adopt one or all of her points into your personal Christmas meaning.

You can listen to this conversation with Nicole on our podcast, Work, Love, Pray! Listen below or click here to find your preferred listening platform.

Do you remember the first Christmas that you truly understood the meaning and magnitude of Christ coming to earth? Did that change the holiday for you?

That’s a great question. My dad was a pastor, so I grew up always associating church with Christmas. When I was around 10, Christmas Eve happened to fall on a Sunday. I distinctly remember the candles with the little paper holder to catch the wax, and I remember I was finally old enough to hold my own candle. We were in church, singing songs and holding these candles, and I remember I realized this was special. Now in retrospect, I know that what I recognized was that service was holy, though I wouldn’t have used those words at the time. That Christmas Eve was when I started to realize that this is a high time to remember who Jesus is. Now, as I’m older and have a family of my own, I think having kids has helped me realize what this season is really about, because as I’m watching them unwrap their gifts, I’m thinking to myself, ‘You guys are the gift. I can’t believe God allowed us to be able to parent you.’

How have you approached and celebrated Christmas with your family? Any special traditions you’ve continued or started?

Our family tends to do the big extended family gatherings at Thanksgiving, and then we do more nuclear family gatherings at Christmas. A few years ago, we started going to my aunt’s house on the Saturday after Christmas for a game night. That has been so much of a highlight that my kids can’t wait to get there! We always eat pizza (because we’re turkey’d out) and we get to play games with my grandmother who is in her 90s now. The laughter, the joy, the music, the community, and the silly games we play have been and will continue to be a tradition that we will keep until we can’t play anymore.  

In the professional world, how have you addressed Christmas with your team?

I have spent the majority of my career in Christian organizations or in churches. In those contexts, when you’re constantly engaged in the planning and the preparation, and making sure that everybody else has a space to worship God, it is so easy to forget to have that space yourself because you’re doing for others and you forget to do for yourself. It is too easy to get caught up in the ‘doing for God act’ that you forget to be with God. So I have found that giving my teams time off around Christmas time to be with family allows them to really be off, and that is the best thing I can do in the church.

It’s hard to be intentional like that, because in those weeks of Christmas and New Year, church teams basically have to be on for almost seven days straight. So I stay very intentional in encouraging my team to truly take time off to enjoy the season and their families. It’s intentional time that will also help boost team morale, because it reminds everyone that they are human beings, not a human just doing.

Reverend Doctor Nicole Massie Martin was born and educated in Baltimore, Maryland. She graduated magna cum laude from Vanderbilt University with a triple major in Human and Organizational Development, Educational Studies, and French. Dr. Martin received her Master of Divinity from Princeton Theological Seminary. She earned a Doctor of Ministry at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary with an emphasis on African American Redemptive Leadership.

Dr. Martin serves as the Chief Impact Officer at Christianity Today. She is the founder and Executive Director of Soulfire International Ministries, which accelerates thriving for pastors, churches, and younger leaders. She is also active in her local congregation in Maryland at Kingdom Fellowship AME Church where she supports the Discipleship Ministry.

Dr. Martin is a gifted writer and author of Made to Lead: Empowering Women for Ministry and Leaning In, Letting Go: A Lenten Devotional. She serves on the board of the National Association of Evangelicals and has been inducted into the esteemed Board of Preachers at Morehouse College.

Dr. Martin is married to her best friend, Dr. Mark Martin, and they have two amazing daughters, Addison and Josephine.