Be honest. How many of you, man or woman, found yourselves running around trying to finish last-minute preparations for Christmas, looking a whole lot more like Martha than Mary?
As you may recall, Martha and Mary invited Jesus to their home for a meal. As Martha ran around preparing the meal and making everything just perfect, Mary spent her time sitting at the foot of Jesus, enjoying his company. Needless to say, Martha was furious at her sister for being so lazy and sought Jesus’ help in persuading her lounging sister to get off her duff and help out.
“Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” exclaims Martha.
To her surprise, Jesus responds, “Martha, Martha, 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.”
I love the story and I try to heed its message (most of the time) to spend time with Jesus and with those I love, even though I always seem to have something urgent — it’s always urgent in my world — to do.
But, there are days and periods of time when I feel like I just can’t take any time at all to just be with Jesus and spend proper time with my loved ones.
It’s Tuesday as I write this, and I have not had a chance to sit down for even a moment in my frenzied preparations for everything Christmas.
I drove up to Cincinnati yesterday to pick up my sons, who flew in from Singapore for the holidays, and managed to get most of my Christmas shopping finished in time to get to the airport before they landed. Earlier in the day, I worked a bit, cleaned the house, prepared by sons’ rooms and made everything just right for them. Not that they care really, being teenage boys, but I care.
My list of completed tasks is long, and my list of things to do in the next 48 hours is daunting.
This year, I decided I wanted to make a bûche do Noël, or yuletide log, to honor the traditions of my children’s other homeland — they are all half-French. I decided to do it as well as a reminder of all the wonderful Christmases we spent in France, as well as to carry on some of those traditions with the grandchildren.
A buche de Noël is not an easy undertaking and rather time-consuming, considering I’m not an expert in the field of bûche-making.
Why do I do it when I’m struggling to find exactly when we can work church into the precisely timed schedule of events? I have every second accounted for in the next three days like a Nasa scientist overseeing a mission in space.
We have a combined-family Christmas Eve celebration at one of my daughter’s house, a combined-family breakfast Christmas morning at another daughter’s house and Christmas dinner at one of my daughter’s in-law’s home. I have to make dishes for each of the events, and my plan of execution is such that I know exactly when I will melt the butter for my buckeyes.
Mind you, I love it. I do. I love my family and I want to make them happy. And selfishly, I want to spend that time with them and see the delight as they bite into the rich concoction. I wouldn’t miss it for the world.
But, should I be doing all of this?
I know all of us are just as busy. I know because I just left Walmart, where tempers were beginning to flare, and the grocery cart jam-up in the baking goods aisle was far more than my impatience could bear.
I found myself reacting just like Martha this morning when I returned home with my groceries, whispering a prayerful plea to God to help me get my boys off their duff to carry in the groceries.
Matters are made worse for me this year as it’s one the first that I don’t benefit from one of the perks of being a teacher — Christmas break. Like most adults, I continue to work at my job in between preparations, leaving little time to do the things I used to love at this timeof year like enjoying Christmas movies with my kids over some hot cocoa, having a leisurely session of baking Christmas cookies and knitting — yes, my girls and I like to knit as we lounge around.
I miss those perks.
However, as I took two seconds this morning to focus my attention on God, a departure from my normal extended quiet time with him, I pondered the state of Christmas.
I’m convinced that God is shaking his head a bit at what we’ve made of Christmas.
I have no solutions for this common ailment. We all suffer from the hype and materialism surrounding Christmas and find it difficult to break free.
I love the perennial “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” My favorite part is the brief moment in the midst of hectic preparations for a Christmas play when Linus walks to center stage to explain the meaning of Christmas to Charlie Brown, who is feeling despair over the whole thing. All becomes still for that moment. The lights of the theatre focus on Charlie Brown’s friend, drawing us in to hear his sweet voice tell the story of the birth of our savior Jesus.
I tear up every single time. It’s just so beautiful and meaningful.
I offer no solutions to the frenzy of Christmas. All I can offer — to myself especially — is the reminder to take a still, quite pause in center stage like Linus or at the foot of Jesus like Martha to remember, rest and bask in the love, grace and mercy of the one who was born so that we may have life.