Imagine this scene: You are in first-century Judea, watching an interesting scene through the window of a small home. You see a woman busy at work, rushing from stove to table, arranging and re-arranging the floor cushions for the hundredth time to get them just right, decorating the table with flowers, positioning the gourmet lamb, flatbread, olives and wine in an appealing pattern. Earlier, she had spent the entire morning sweeping the house, scrubbing the furniture, bringing in palm branches to hang on the walls, and shaking out rugs. She looks exhausted, stressed.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the room there is a guest, sitting on a large cushion on the floor, deep in conversation with another woman. This woman looks very much like the first one, most likely her sister. The two of them seem completely unaware of the activities around them; that is, until they are jolted from their world by a question: “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
You have probably already guessed it – it’s the story of Martha and Mary (Luke 10), the two sisters of Lazarus, whom Jesus raised from the dead. Martha is the busy one, distracted with the work she had taken on, while Mary only cared about “lazily” sitting with Jesus and listening to his teachings. Jesus’ answer to Martha’s frustrated question is quite intriguing. He didn’t chastise her but instead just helped bring her focus back to what’s important. “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:41-42). See, in her effort to do everything perfectly and getting everything just right, Martha had forgotten about her guest – and not just any guest! The Lord of the universe was sitting in her house, and she was too busy to spend time with Him!
I don’t know about you, but I cannot help but think of the upcoming Advent and Christmas season. Are we not all too similar to Martha, filling our days with frenzied activities, rushing to and fro, exhausted and stressed? Do we not all too easily forget that Christmas is not about the lights and the glitter, the shopping and the turkey, the parties and the gifts? We think that we just need to do this one more thing, buy this one other gift, serve that one additional appetizer, and then we’ll be ready to celebrate Jesus. And before we know it, Christmas will be over, and we will have missed spending time with Him. Jesus’ answer rings true for us as well. “You are worried and upset about many things, but less is more. Keep things simple, so that you can choose what is better. It’s about Me, remember? Why don’t you rest awhile and spend some time with Me?”
I pray that we would all take this reminder to heart this year. May we take the time to reflect on and choose what is better. May we remember why we celebrate Christmas in the first place. And may we be happy and content with simple, few things – or indeed only one: Jesus.