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Have a Very "Mary" Christmas

But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:41-42)

Black Friday marked the beginning of the Christmas season for many. And during this season the world cries out, “Have a very Martha Christmas; be busy and stressed!” Jesus’ visit with Martha in Luke 10:38-42 is “an object lesson on the priority of responding to Jesus over worldly concerns.”[1] It is timely throughout Advent. So I want to call us as a church to have a very “Mary” Christmas.

In this passage, Martha is concerned with good things; she is doing ministry after all – she is focused on getting things ready for Jesus’ visit. And in the previous passage in Luke, Jesus teaches that disciples should serve others; they should love their neighbor (Luke 10:25-37). But to serve others does not mean that we should ignore God in the process. This story about Mary and Martha comes after the parable of the Good Samaritan to put our ministry into perspective. Martha, like so many of us, misses the good thing in the hustle and bustle of doing many “good” ministry things---she misses Jesus. So, I’m not surprised that she, like many of us, is anxious and troubled about many things.

Mary on the other hand, takes the position of a disciple with her master; she sits at the feet of Jesus and listens to his teaching. Attention to Jesus is the key element in the disciple’s life. And we attend to Jesus using our ears, not our hands. Ministry with our hands cannot supersede the work of our ears because the ear guides the hands. We “sit at the feet of Jesus” by listening to the Word of God. The Old Testament points to Jesus, the Gospels tell of his life, death, and resurrection, and the rest of the New Testament explains the significance of these events for our salvation. The gospel---that Jesus died for our sins---comes before our ministry and must inform our ministry (gospel-conduct).

When I do premarital counseling with a couple I challenge them to spend as much time working on their marriage during their engagement as they spend working on their wedding. I would challenge us as a congregation to do something similar. Let’s spend as much time meditating on the significance of Christ’s incarnation during this advent season as we spend buying gifts, planning dinners, going to parties, etc. In getting everything right for the celebration of Jesus’ visit in the flesh, let us not miss Jesus himself this Christmas. Let us have a very “Mary” Christmas. O come let us adore him!

[1] Comments on the text come from D.L. Bock, Luke Volume 2:9:51-24:53. BECNT. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1996.