December 5, 2020

How To Have Yourself a Mary and Martha Little Christmas

I’m trying to be more like Mary this Christmas.

No, not that Mary. The other one. The one who’s always portrayed as the A+ student to Martha’s “needs improvement” whenever the Biblical story of Jesus at Mary and Martha’s house is told.

(Briefly, based on Luke 10: Jesus was hanging out at his friends’ house. Mary parked herself at His feet and gave Him her rapt attention. Martha, meanwhile, ran around trying to cook for everyone, including Jesus. She started whining to the Man Himself about how her sister needed to get up off the floor already and help her out. Jesus said [paraphrasing here], “My dear Martha, you’re all worked up trying to do things your way. But Mary has picked the better way.”)

I’m on the record as a longtime member of the Martha Defense Council. I’ve been a guest in houses where no one was on Martha duty, and frankly, I’ve been hungry. But I think both Mary and Martha have some pointers to pass along where this present Christmas is concerned.

Use the paper plates, for instance.

The thing is, Martha wasn’t doing a bad thing; she just wasn’t doing the better thing.

Wow, would it ever be a whole lot easier to ace this test if the choice of how to spend our time came down to good versus bad. The trick is that it’s usually a choice between good and better.

It’s not like Martha was in the back room gossiping with her BFF while she ignored her honored Guest; she was trying to show love and care. She was trying to meet needs. She was trying to serve well. (Sounds like most moms I know.)

I think Martha was doing what I tend to do, especially at Christmas: I run around like a crazy person doing things that can be done anytime or another time and miss what can only be done in this time.

Martha could always cook a meal, but she couldn’t always sit at Jesus’ feet. I can always do dishes, but I can’t always sit on the couch with my big kids and look at the Christmas lights. I can always—another year—put the greenery garland I like but don’t love on my front railings, but I can’t always decorate the Christmas tree with the teenager I both like and love.

So I’ll be keeping Martha close at hand to keep me on track while I try to be a little more like Mary this Christmas. While I leave the real dishes in the cupboard and use the paper plates for family pizza night with my whole present-and-accounted-for family. While I leave the front railings plain and decorate cookies with my big kids.

While I put good on the back burner good and sit at the feet of better.