Oh boy, they’re already showing Christmas commercials.
I love this time of year, I do. But somewhere along with the joy and peace and love, stress creeps in, too. I get a little more tense and my growing list of extra things to accomplish feeds that stress in an attempt to create a great big ball of it.
What I intend to bring fellowship brings frustration instead. What begins with a smile ends with a scowl, and I wonder why we even try. But what if things could be different?
As preparations pile up in my lap, I can’t help but think about some feast preps made famous by Jesus.
One feast that two women treated completely different.
One woman loved. The other labored. And in the process these sisters showed us a better way to celebrate.
Gospel-writer Luke recorded the exchange: Martha invited Jesus into her home then went to work. But her labor peeled her away from his presence. Mary, consumed by her Savior, chose to sit at Jesus’ feet.
Labor cumbered Martha. Love consumed Mary.
I can’t blame Martha. I imagine her chopping away in the kitchen thinking, “If I don’t do this, who will? Somebody has to do it!” Her chops grew harder. Her blood boiled a little hotter then finally, “That’s it!” she silently screamed.
But Martha was distracted by her many tasks, and she came up and asked, ‘Lord, don’t You care that my sister has left me to serve alone? So tell her to give me a hand.’” Luke 10:40 (HCSB)
Whoa! Crazy lady alert.
Can you see her standing in the doorway, hand on hip, jaw clenched, tapping her foot? In this story it’s easy to spot the girl gone wild and her major misstep. Hello! Jesus is in your living room! And you’re complaining about what? Sit down and hush up already!
Then there’s Mary who, “sat at the Lord’s feet and was listening to what He said” (Luke 10:39b).
Martha stands for chaos, frustration, fatigue. Mary points to a calm, peaceful, purposeful presence. I want to be Mary, but when there’s much to be done it’s hard to choose love over labor. The key word there is choose.
Love, often mistaken for a feeling, is actually a choice.
As my husband and I drove into the city one night we spotted a homeless man on the corner. It’s not that uncommon of a sight in the New Orleans area, but this night we both sat silent consumed by the reality that man faced. After a few minutes Luke opened his heart to say,
“We need to do a Thanksgiving dinner for the homeless. God keeps bringing it up.”
So that’s exactly what we did. We invited some players and some homeless people and in a little kitchen in the heart of the city, we shared a meal.
But before all that happiness happened, well . . .
I hustled to the store for some last minute decorations. Given my design disability, this proved quite stressful. I sought desperately for things that matched – or didn’t match – because that’s the style now, right? I don’t know.
I picked wreaths and tablecloths and candles and threw them in the back of the car. Back at home I ordered folks around and sent Luke out the door for the food. All the food. Casseroles, potatoes and pies. Hot and ready to serve.
Except they weren’t ready.
Someone forgot to unfreeze them. So while most of the meal cooked across town we unloaded the little we had as our guests began to arrive.
Oh my goodness! My heart screamed. How can we invite homeless men and women to a Thanksgiving food and have no food to serve them?
I paced and sweated and called to check on the food. A fake smile stretched across my face while something much less nice stretched across my soul. But in the midst of the mess something beautiful unfolded on the other side of the kitchen.
With time to spare people introduced themselves. They pulled up chairs and stretched their legs. They took off their coats and got comfortable. Famous men sat down with forgotten ones and talked. Laughed. Loved.
The choice to love helped us escape the chaos.
The choice to love made the moment easier to manage.
The food eventually showed up. No one seemed to notice it was late. It’s as if everyone forgot their empty stomachs, because their souls were so full.
The Lord answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has made the right choice, and it will not be taken away from her.’” Luke 10:41-42
Love flows from a heart connected to Jesus. A heart that takes time to sit still with him. Listening to him. Absorbing him.
As the Thanksgiving meal approaches, carrying the holiday rush right behind it, let’s stop for a minute to whisper a prayer:
Dear Jesus, may my chore never become greater than your choice to love me first, so that I may love. (1 John 4:19)
Copyright © 2020 by Katy McCown @ https://katymccown.com/2015/11/13/a-better-way-to-celebrate/.Used with permission. No part of this article may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from Lifeword.org.