Mary and Martha at Christmas

Martha_and_ Mary_It’s Christmas time. Do you feel the pressure rising? It seems that I begin to feel the stress of the Christmas season as soon as the Thanksgiving dinner dishes are put away. Every Christmas, my desire is to make the season special for my family. I have this idea in my mind that I have to do everything just right. I have to make sure that we don’t forget any of our traditions, that the house gets beautifully decorated, that we get the fullest and most fragrant Christmas tree, that we make all the traditional cookies, and that the kids each get a present that makes them think, “Wow! I have the best parents!”  And on a more spiritual note, because I want to be a “good Christian mother,” I want to make sure the kids catch the true meaning of Christmas, that we gather on Sunday afternoons for the lighting of the Advent wreath and that on Christmas morning we begin with focused time on the birth of Jesus. This is a lot of burden to carry for one woman, and yet, I try to carry it every year.

The story in the Bible of Mary and Martha has a very powerful message to us during this season. Mary and Martha are followers of Jesus who welcomed Jesus into their home. You may remember the story, Martha busily prepares a meal while Mary sits at Jesus’ feet. (Luke 10:38-42)

Usually Martha gets the bad rap in this story. Why is this? Well, she was distracted by all the preparations. She got frustrated with her sister. She questioned that Jesus didn’t even care that she had all this work to do and Mary wasn’t helping her. She demanded that Jesus tell Mary to help her.

Can you identify with Martha? Do you get distracted by all the Christmas preparations? Do you ever find yourself getting frustrated with your husband or your roommate or even your children because they are not helping you? Do you ever feel exhausted and grumpy? Here we are trying to make the season special and we are miserable!

Now, before we go on to extol the virtues of Mary, we must not neglect to recognize how wonderful Martha really was. In John 11:20-27, Mary and Martha’s brother Lazarus was sick and Jesus got their too late to heal him. He died and had been dead for about 4 days. This passage gives us a glimpse of Martha’s heart and her relationship with Jesus. Martha was the first one to run out to meet Jesus. Martha expressed her belief in Jesus. She knew Him well. Right after she said these things she ran and got Mary and went to the tomb where Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead.

Martha was a wonderful woman who loved Jesus. She just didn’t get something very important.

Let’s get back to our original story. While Martha was driven to distraction by all the preparations, what was Mary doing? She was sitting at Jesus’ feet listening to what He said. Just imagine the scene? Mary sitting right at Jesus’ feet. Perhaps there was a houseful of his followers listening to him all crowded together in a little room. And there was Mary, right at Jesus’ feet, undistracted, totally absorbed with Jesus’ words.

Mary was a woman drawn to devotion.

Now let’s revisit Martha’s complaint to Jesus. She says, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

And Jesus responds, “Martha, Martha.”  Jesus’ love for Martha leaps off the page as He says her name not once, but two times.  I can just imagine Jesus shaking his head, “Martha, Martha.” It is very poignant what He says to her…”you are worried and upset about many things.”

And then He says, “but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Only one thing is needed… Another version reads, “there is only one thing worth being concerned about and Mary has discovered it.”

Mary discovered it. She figured it out. She got it.

There’s another passage that shows how Mary gets this one thing and perhaps, Martha still doesn’t get it. In John 12:1-3, Martha served. And what does Mary do while Martha is serving? She takes a pint of expensive perfume; she pours it on Jesus’ feet and wipes his feet with her hair. Talk about devotion!

Now, I do not want to give Martha a bad rap again by pointing this out. Martha must have the gift of hospitality and service. Yet, she served losing sight of the “one thing.” Being busy at Christmas, running here and there, cooking, cleaning, decorating, and all that we do can bring glory to the Lord when we do the “one thing” by keeping our eyes fixed on Him.  And carving out a few minutes a day during the season to sit at Jesus’ feet does wonders for keeping our eyes fixed on Him throughout the day.

Let’s not get distracted by it all. Let’s not get frustrated at our loved ones for not helping us. Let’s worship Him as we serve.  And let’s stay drawn to devotion during this season.

How can you be drawn to devotion this Christmas season?