I think perhaps we’ve had a bad impression of Martha for too long. Not Martha the American mega-business woman. Martha from the book of St. Luke.
We’ve chastised her for being a busy woman. There are a lot of busy, hard-working people whom I admire. They stick to the task. They get things done. They don’t mind getting their hands dirty. They keep at it until the job is complete. We can count on them.
Have we equated being diligent with being un-Christian?
Our first introduction to Martha is in chapter 10 of Luke, ” . . . a woman named Martha opened her home to him [Jesus].” She had the gift of hospitality and she welcomed Jesus and his followers.
When we bring people into our homes, there are things to do. Martha set herself to the task of feeding a group of hungry men.
We see the problem arising a couple of verses later: “Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made.” Ah, the distractions. I have walked in Martha’s sandals.
Other versions of Scripture say she was worried and troubled, disturbed by all her responsibilities. I especially like the rendering of the Message: “Martha was pulled away by all she had to do . . . ”
I have been pulled away too. Pulled away from sitting at Jesus’ feet, pulled away from what is important by what seems urgent, pulled away from the people I am to serve by my need to finish all the preparations.
As I see it, herein lies some of the problem with the Christmas season. It has become complicated, full to overflowing, demanding, over abundant. We have become distracted by all the preparations. And we have been blinded to the beauty of Christmas.
Martha lost sight of her Lord, the very nearness of His presence in her home, while she became engrossed in the work at hand.
Her distraction and worry brought on accusations and demands. “Don’t you care?” she asked Jesus. “Make Mary help me,” she commanded Him. The audacity.
I have found myself guilty of Martha’s sin. I have wondered if God cared. I have stomped my feet like an angry child who didn’t get her way. I have been distracted, troubled and worried by the tasks and the schedule and have overlooked the reality of Emmanuel.
How can we approach Christmas with a work ethic like Martha and a heart like Mary?
Jesus said Mary chose the best, the place of sitting quietly and listening. Her attention was focused on His words that were Life to her.
That is the challenge. We live in a culture of extravagance, and our schedules fill quickly as we try to do more and be more. Yet we are not called to do everything or be all things to everyone. We are called to be still and know our God first. Then we are called to serve.
We cannot walk in power and peace if we lose connection with the Prince of Peace.
It will take determination, imagination even, and a made-up mind to spend some quiet time with Jesus each day, especially in December. So many voices call after us seeking our attention. We have to make a decision what is most important to us.
If you wonder where to begin, seek out someone you know who has developed the discipline of quiet meditation each day. Or simply ask the Holy Spirit for guidance. It is His specialty.
In the quiet of His presence, we will hear Him speak. We can take a deep breath and feel the calm infuse us. We will get a clear focus on what is important. And we gain wisdom from God who gives it liberally.
His plan for my day is always better than my own.