Advent: A Season for Martha & Mary


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What is Advent?

Advent is a season of waiting with joyful expectation. Yes, it’s a season of cookies, ornaments, gifts, and family. But it’s also a season of knowing that Jesus is coming, and being excited for that time. We know we get to celebrate His birth in a few weeks on December 25. The cookies and gifts are one way we prepare to celebrate that gift from God.


Some of us also live in joyful expectation for the day He returns. The older I get, and the more dismayed I am by the world around me, the more I fervently pray and await the time when Jesus will return, riding on a cloud, shining like the sun, to make all things new. (Anyone else humming, "Days of Elijah?")


Until then, we wait. And we embrace the opportunity to openly share about Jesus every Advent. We embrace this season of waiting and preparing.


As we eagerly await, we know those cookies won’t bake themselves. The gifts won’t buy and wrap themselves. The table won’t set itself for guests. The ornaments won’t jump on the tree and mantle by themselves. So we do our part to spread Christmas cheer.

 

Now shift with me for just a moment -


Who are Martha & Mary?

Perhaps you’ve read the story of Martha and Mary from Luke 10:

38As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40But 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!”
41“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42but few things are needed—or indeed only one. f Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

There are lots of great books discussing the virtues of Mary. She sits quietly at Jesus’s feet, enraptured by His wisdom and peace. I love that. Seriously. I love sitting quietly with my Bible, praying, worshipping, and learning from the Scriptures.


Martha gets a bad rep.

But I also feel like Martha gets a bad reputation.


Many people who explore these two sisters imply that we need to “busy-shame” Martha. How dare she be so distracted by making her home hospitable? How dare she ignore Jesus to be sure her home was functioning well for all the guests?


I understand that Jesus wanted her to know that loving Him and learning from Him needed to be her first priority. And that the same is true for us. I’m certainly not arguing with that. Jesus as Priority 1 should be our key takeaway from this passage.


What do Martha & Mary have to do with Christmas?

I simply think that Martha has something to offer us this Advent season besides being an object lesson in slowing down and smelling the Biblical roses.


Let’s look at a few things we can take from Martha:
  1. She knew how to get the job done! She was likely a very efficient home manager. I could use help with that! Given the historical context, and what we know from Scripture, this house was likely bursting at the seams with people. Martha probably had a whole team of people helping to clean house and prepare/serve food. That takes great organizational skills.

  2. She was not afraid to tell Jesus what she needed. Much like David in the Psalms, she spoke openly. She knew what she needed and she told Jesus. Was she a bit demanding? Well, yes. But have you read the Psalms? David pours out his honest heart to God (angrily, in some cases) and ends with worship every time. Later we see Martha again and she clearly trusts Jesus. Her faith is not in question, as far as I can see.

  3. She knew her love language was service. She was clearly wanting to present a well functioning home for Jesus and all the followers. She loved Jesus and wanted to know if He loved her too. In fact, I would say she wanted to be sure that Jesus knew she was doing this for him. She asked if he cared about her. She was allowing herself to be vulnerable. She was saying, in effect, “I’m doing all this out of love for you, because you are here. Do you care that I’ve done this all by myself?”


I’m sure you’ve figured out that I’m more Martha than Mary. But my morning Bible Study times are teaching me how to be Mary. Maybe you can relate?


Again, balance is the solution.

I think the key is to know the balance. And Advent - when we are busily baking, decorating, buying, wrapping, hosting, and planning - is a great time to practice this balance.

There’s a time for those Martha-like activities. There’s a time to take action, want help, pray for God to help us (or send help), and serve our families and the church in innumerable ways.


There’s also a time to sit at the feet of Jesus and listen. There’s a time to stop letting the preparations dictate our time and just be quiet with Jesus. A time to listen for His voice - whether in study, prayer, or worship.


Pray, listen, obey.

I encourage us all to begin our days with prayer, then listen all day. Jesus may just tell you to set the cookie sheet aside for a few minutes to go sit at His feet.

I promise that if you obey, He will help you get to the other Martha activities in due time.

We can be both Martha and Mary. We just need to discern which is the better part for the moment.


With love as we wait,

Andrea


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