As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, ‘Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!’
‘Martha, Martha,’ the Lord answered, ‘you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.’
Luke 10:38-41 (NIV)
We don’t often think of this story as a Christmas story. But as I read it again this December, it struck me that this is exactly the message I need.
Christmas is supposed to be a time of reflection. A time of remembering. A time of calm. It’s supposed to be about a gift. A gift from God to us, His children. Yet, as is our human tendency, we’ve made it about so much more. We’ve made it about the gifts under the tree, the food we eat, and the parties we host. We’ve made it about us.
I read the story of Mary and Martha and recognize the Martha in me. I can get so caught up in all the preparations of Christmas that I forget to slow down and reflect on what Christmas is really all about. I concern myself more with the buying and wrapping and decorating and fixing than I do about sharing the Christmas story. I spend my time fixating on the perfect tree, the perfect centrepiece and the perfect meal plan instead of on that perfect gift God sent the world more than 2000 years ago.
In The Message we read about Mary, “who sat before the Master, hanging on every word he said. But Martha was pulled away by all she had to do in the kitchen.” Luke 10:39 (MSG)
Like Martha, I allow myself to be pulled away from God by the busyness of the season. I buy into the lie that Christmas is about my kids, my family, my friends. About spending, impressing and entertaining. And because of this, I spend the season serving them (and me) instead of serving the One True God. The God who sent His one and only Son into this world that very first Christmas to dwell among us and bring us life.
And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life.
1 John 5:11-12a
Now, thanks be to God for His indescribable gift [which is precious beyond words]!
2 Corinthians 9:15 (AMP)
We’ve been given the greatest gift of all in a tiny baby, born to a virgin in a lowly manger in Bethlehem. And through this gift, this child, we’re offered enduring hope, unconditional love, profound peace and ultimate joy. And, above all, this gift offers life. Eternal life.
God’s gift is real life, eternal life, delivered by Jesus, our Master.
Romans 6:23 (MSG)
I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “It’s better to give than to receive.” We hear it a lot around the Christmas season. We say it ourselves, and even tell it to our kids. And while this is good in and of itself, especially in a culture that wants more and more, it misses the point of Christmas entirely.
Christmas is about receiving. Receiving hope, joy, peace and love. Receiving life.
Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live! You can make this choice by loving the LORD your God, obeying him, and committing yourself firmly to him. This is the key to your life.
Deuteronomy 30:19-20 (NLT)
So this Christmas, as you gather with friends and family, as you give and receive gifts around the tree, pause and sit at His feet like Mary. Hang on every word as you read the Christmas story together. Marvel at the gift extended to you. Receive, from the Father, love and life into your heart. And behold Immanuel, God with us.