Cultivating a Heart of Devotion this Christmas

heart of devotionAre you drawn to devotion or driven to distraction?

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 and worshipful 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, and that each of my children gets the perfect gift.  And on a more spiritual note, I have always wanted to make sure the kids caught the true meaning of Christmas, so as the children were growing up, we would always gather on the Sundays preceding Christmas for the lighting of the Advent wreath and then, on Christmas morning, we would light the Christ candle, the center candle of the wreath and begin our gift-giving with focused time on Jesus.

And it is a good thing to make the season special and worshipful, unless… it distracts me from a heart of devotion. 

The story in the Bible of Mary and Martha has a very powerful message to us from Jesus Himself on how to cultivate a heart of devotion during the holiday season. Mary and Martha were followers of Jesus who welcomed Jesus into their home. You may remember the story, Martha busily serves her guests while Mary sits at Jesus’ feet. (Luke 10:38-42)

Usually Martha gets the bad rep in this story. Why is this? Well, she was distracted by all the preparations. She got frustrated with her sister and even accused Jesus of not caring. Then, 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 there too late to heal him. 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. Then she ran to get Mary and bring her to Jesus.

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 take a look at Jesus’ response to Martha’s complaint. He says, “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!

Once again, Martha is serving. She must have had 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 stay drawn to devotion this Christmas season?