Having a “Mary” Christmas

Another great weekend at The Orchard. We’re in a fascinating series called the Advent Conspiracy which involves resisting the pace,  relational gift giving, and redistribution. Check out the link for details. This week Scott shared the story of Martha and Mary out of Luke 10:38-42. When Jesus arrived in their village, Martha invited Jesus into her home. While she prepared for her guests, her sister Mary sat at Jesus’ feet, listening. Sounds lovely doesn’t it? Well, not so much. At one point Martha approaches Jesus and says,  “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” Jesus replies to her, “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and bothered by so many things, but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” That would have frosted me to hear that. Why?

Well, in that culture, women were to prepare the food and accommodate their guests–not sit around and listen to rabbinical teaching. Martha is doing the right thing. She is following the rules. She is working to serve her Lord while her sister does not help but takes the opportunity to listen. It sounds like Jesus is rebuking Martha or saying that its ok to sit around while someone else does all the work. We tend to assume a tone of voice when we read scripture. Try reading the words more compassionately. As an invitation. Perhaps an unspoken release to Martha from her duties–against all cultural expectations to put on a good spread–and come join Mary.

Hmm. I started the paragraph with “in that culture”. But doesn’t this sound like the current holiday season? There is an amazing feeling of pressure to shop, get the better deal, take pictures and mail out cards or annual letters, Christmas dresses and outfits to show off on Christmas Eve or Day. To have the best looking and best behaved children at any gathering. Not to mention school or church programs, parties, etc. How funny it is to have Christmas parties in January–after all the duties of “the holidays” die down.

What if we took on Jesus’ attitude towards Mary and chose the good part–against all cultural expectations. I received an email from a friend I don’t get to see often. She apologized for not sending a Christmas card because she just didn’t get it done this year. I LOVED hearing that.  I know some things need to get done and I know some women who thrive in this sort of thing. That would not be me. But what if we chose the good part and focused on Jesus this Christmas and the work HE did? That being in very nature God, Jesus chose not to cling to his rightful place, but humbled himself to become a baby in the world. To grow, make friends, experience grief, loneliness, compassion, anger, excitement. And to recognize the desperate state we face in separation from the Father. He withstood mocking, torture, temptation and humiliation yet still did not blast his accusers out of the universe. Because he could have said “to hell with all of you if you’re not going to appreciate this.” But he didn’t. THAT’S worth sitting and listening to.

Check out the link to Scott’s blog and read about this Advent conspiracy. So far, it has let me off the hook a number of times as I’ve felt pressured to do more and spend more. And all those tasks and gifts would have been really good things but at an enormous price for our family. Join our family this year and have a Mary Christmas won’t you?

After the holidays, consider reading a book called “Having A Mary Heart in a Martha World” by Joanna Weaver. Great perspective.


4 responses to this post.

  1. My small group and I did a study with that book. It was great!

    This year, I have really learned and tried to apply “simpleness, not perfectionism” to our Christmas. I do still do all the “holiday” stuff, but I just don’t overdo it.

    I shopped early and mostly online—ahh. I don’t use bows. I use old shoeboxes to pack gifts and gift bags when I can. We had photo Christmas cards made at Wal-Mart. I run them through my computer printer to print our names. I minimize the decorations a lot. Just a tree that the girls decorated almost all by themselves this year, a little Christmas village on our entertainment center, a centerpiece for our table. We don’t even have outside lights. We hang our Christmas cards up around the cutout window between our living room and kitchen. I’m making just a few recipes for candy and cookies instead of a whole slew of different things.

    I’m keeping track of everything on my calendar and getting things done early, so that during Christmas week, I’m not running around like a crazy person, then realizing I missed the great wonder of Christ’s birthday!


  2. Posted by Beth on December 11, 2007 at 6:57 pm

    We also used that book for a Women’s Bible study at our church. Unfortunately I am still a Martha.

    I did get alot of cookie dough made today for baking later. We had a snow day so schools were closed, etc. I have finals the week before Christmas, so it is getting hard to focus on the true meaning of the Season. I wish I could delay Christmas a week this year but the kids won’t let me. haha


  3. Posted by Michele on December 11, 2007 at 7:54 pm

    Midday Connection on WMBI just had a program today that featued JoAnn and this very book. Very good and thought provoking.
    I’ve always felt sorry for Martha but then I also feel sorry for the other brother in the Prodigal Son parable.
    Some day I’ll learn that my relationship with my Saviour is not about doing for Him but being with Him. Hopefully on this side of heaven, but then again in heaven my 7 kids won’t need me 24/7 and I’ll not feel guilty about having time to myself.


  4. Really? I wish I’d heard it! And by the way you sounded great on Sunday. Always nice to get to hear you solo!!
    Since Sunday, I’ve been getting the itch to read that book again. It changed my mind on the whole thing. And you know, Mary & Martha were Lazarus’ sisters. Interestingly, when Jesus arrived after Lazarus’ death, Martha ran to meet him but Mary stayed behind in the house. Could it be she was a little upset with Jesus? Devoted one day and crushed the next. Sounds like a regular gal like the rest of us eh?


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