Several years ago, I was overwhelmed and grumpy during the Christmas holiday. I had set expectations for myself to create a perfect Christmas. I attempted to accomplish too much and overthought every detail. Somewhere in the prep for the holiday, it became a chore. Instead of creating the perfect holiday, I created a polluted holiday. My attitude was negative and grumpy instead of joyful. It set the tone within the walls of my home. That Christmas morning, I wanted to pull the covers over my head and tell the kids that Santa had retired. I lost my joy at the happiest time of the year.
Can you relate? How is your joy this Christmas?
This crazy busy schedule started me on a search for some answers. How do I find joy when I feel overwhelmed and overworked? I came across a story of a woman in scripture who thought she could do it all but developed a grumpy attitude while her sister found joy. Let's unpack the story of Mary and Martha as we ponder the question, “Can Martha have a M-A-R-Y Christmas?”
Luke 10:38-42 reads, “Now, as they were traveling along, He entered a certain village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. She had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord’s feet, listening to His word. But Martha was distracted with all her preparations, and she came up to Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.” But the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about many things. But only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”
Look at each phrase with me:
“Now as they were traveling along, He entered a certain village: and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home.” - If you were to scan back a few verses, you would find that Jesus was traveling with about seventy of his followers. So, this was not some small invitation Martha gave to Jesus. This invitation could have very easily been for all seventy people.
“He entered a certain village” - This village was called Bethany. It was two miles east of Jerusalem. This was the home of Mary and Martha.
“A woman named Martha welcomed him into her home” - Martha loved the Lord. She was a friend of the Lord. She is the sister of Mary and whose brother was Lazarus.
"She had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord’s feet, listening to His word. But Martha was distracted with all her preparations, and she came up to Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.” Examine the contrast. Mary chose to spend time with her Lord. Martha chose to serve her Lord. Both are excellent choices. However, Martha is too busy to listen. Mary sat before the Master, hanging on every word. But Martha was distracted with her preparations.
Distracted is defined as being unable to concentrate because one’s mind is preoccupied. Webster's Dictionary defines distracted as turning aside or directing one’s attention to a different object.
However, part of Martha's problem is that she also got an attitude on top of her distractions, making it all unravel into a hot mess. Read Martha's words again. “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me." Can you picture it in your mind's eye?
I can see it clearly because this is where I often live. Can’t you imagine Martha in the kitchen muttering under her breath? "I have to do everything around here. Why won’t Mary help me? Can’t she see there is much to be done?"
As her frustration builds, she interrupts Jesus' teaching with her negative complaints. "Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone?" Then she demands that Jesus tell Mary to help! Her serving turned into commanding. Yet, Jesus' tone was compassionate and personal as he called her by name, not once but twice.
"But the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about many things. But only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”
I have wrestled for years with this passage because it seems that Martha is corrected for her hard work and her diligence. This is the one that I can relate to the most! And to be practical, someone needs to prepare the food and take care of the household, and that someone is often me. What is the lesson? Is she being rebuked for her diligence? No, I don’t think so. We know from other scripture verses that diligence is praised: “Whatsoever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.” (Ecclesiastes 9:10 ESV) 1 Corinthians 14:40 reads, “Let everything be done decently and in order.”
The lesson is that Martha spent time serving Jesus but not time with Jesus. Don’t get distracted from the main thing. Choose to sit with your Abba Father. Life will try to pull you away; responsibilities will raise their voice at you, and loved ones will call for you. Yet, move towards the Lord. The lesson is not to let your attitude go south while serving. I find it interesting that Martha called Jesus LORD and then proceeded to tell him what to do. However, it is easy to do.
And Jesus said, “Mary has chosen the good thing." This tells me that what we do with Christ is more important than what we do for Christ. Mary's posture in his presence created a passion that God praised. She chose to worship instead of worry. She demonstrated what it means to “Be still and know that I am God.” She was drawn to her Lord. His words gave her peace.
What does this mean for you and me practically this Christmas season:
Focus on Christ during your Christmas. Joy is found in his presence, not Christmas presents. Create time to sit with your Lord even in the chaos. Pull away as best as you can. Jesus wants to meet with you. As in our story, I believe Jesus is inviting you and me. I hear him call you by name and say, "Why don’t you take off your apron and sit down for a few minutes? The other things can wait. There is something very dear to my heart I’d like to share with you, you personally. Do you have some time right now?"
Sweet friend, don’t get distracted this holiday. Sit with Him, and rediscover your Christmas joy.
From my heart to yours, Have a M_A_R_Y Christmas!