This advent season, I am making a very conscientious effort to find moments to be still and remember the reason for the season – to celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. With the calendar quickly filling up, holiday events to plan for, numerous meals to prepare, gift shopping to do – all in addition to the usual, daily grind – I can easily get caught up in the frenzy that is typically associated with this season. Instead of filling my heart with eager expectation and gratitude, the growing to-do lists often lead to feelings of restlessness, frustration, and anxiety.
I recently listened to a sermon online about Martha and Mary at the suggestion of a friend. In the sermon, the pastor preached out of Luke 10 and told the familiar story of the two sisters:
Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” [Luke 10:38-42]
Now if you are anything like me, you relate much more to Martha than Mary and the scene of Martha frantically scurrying to get everything ready for the meal while Mary casually lounges next to Jesus is somewhat infuriating. I appreciate that the pastor gives a shout out to Martha in his sermon saying “Marthas are the ones who get things done. Have you ever tried working with a Mary?” The Martha in me had to chuckle at that.
When it comes to Martha, the pastor points out, “It’s not the hustle that Jesus has a problem with, it’s the heart.” Martha’s problem wasn’t in her serving or her working. It was Martha’s desire for control of the situation; her wanting things to go according to her plans on her terms and in her time (boy, does that sound all too familiar to me). When she realized that wasn’t happening, she pleaded with Jesus in frustration, “Don’t you care?”. As if it wasn’t enough to question Jesus’ concern for her needs, Martha then continues to instruct him, “then tell her to help me”. How often do we find ourselves doing the same exact thing? When things don’t go the way we want, we question God’s care for us and then demand He do something to make it go our way (not realizing what He has in store for us is so much greater)! Oh, how the Lord is ever patient with us.
I love how Jesus takes the time to tenderly respond to her. He says, “Martha, Martha” – calling her name twice as if to really grab her attention – “you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary.” Jesus does care. But it’s not about all the frivolous things Martha is concerned with at the moment. Jesus sees the bigger picture beyond the dirty pots and pans, and so does Mary. “Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” Mary chooses to be in the presence of Jesus, worshipping at His feet, knowing the time with her Lord is precious.
My dear fellow Marthas, in the midst of the holiday hustle, let us not lose sight of what is really important. Let us not get so caught up in the preparations that we miss out on the very presence of Jesus in our lives. With that goal in mind, here are a couple practical ways to spend more time in the Lord’s presence this season:
- Use an advent devotional to help prepare our hearts and minds for the coming of the Christ child. Grace Kids is supplying a simple weekly advent devotional guide created by Leslie Ann Jones to help us focus on the things that matter most this season. You can pick a copy at the Grace Kids check-in desk this Sunday.
- Be intentional and deliberate to what we say “yes”. There may be lots of invitations and requests made of us this season. Prayerfully consider what to say “yes” to and what we may need to politely and graciously decline in order to spend more time focusing on God’s great gift to us.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Oh, how the Father loves us! So much so He sent His one and only Son to come in human form, live the life we never could, endure the death and wrath we deserved, so that one day we will be raised in glory with Him for eternity! Like Mary, let us fall at His feet in awe and in worship. O come, let us adore Him this holiday season!
Lee Augsburger is NOT retiring! In fact, he started working on his Master’s of Divinity at Westminster Theological Seminary this month, together with Sharon, who began her work on a Master’s Degree in Counseling.