The story is found in Luke 10:38-42, and the focus of the account is on the interaction of two sisters with the Lord Jesus. As Christ and his disciples were headed home, they traveled through the village of Bethany, the place where his friends Lazarus, Mary, and Martha lived. These three siblings had opened their home to Jesus, and the story unfolds as Martha hurried about attending to all the hospitality preparations, probably in another part of the house fixing food! Mary, on the other hand, had decided to take full advantage of Jesus’ presence with them, so she positioned herself on the floor near his feet so she could hear everything he was sharing with the others. Two sisters… same house… but two very different interactions with Jesus.
As the story continues, Martha began to get frustrated. With so many things needing to get done, how could Mary just sit around? As the resentment swelled, Martha finally called on Jesus to help set things right: “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” (Luke 10:40b NIV)
If one were unfamiliar with the story, it might be a bit surprising to hear Jesus’ response to Martha. After all, she was hustling and bustling about for Jesus’ benefit! But Jesus, instead of rebuking Mary for her idleness, did just the opposite. He praised her for having chosen what is better. To her sister, he began his counsel with “Martha, Martha,” calling her name twice for emphasis. Jesus then offered the analysis that she was “worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed.” The thing that was needed was exactly what Mary had been doing: simply sitting in the presence of Jesus, being with Him, and learning from Him.
This brings me to why this story is my favorite “Christmas story.” Each year as December rolls around, with all the many holiday-related “to do” lists (including the seasonal demands of music ministry), I find myself behaving more and more like the sister Jesus corrected and less like the sister Jesus praised. I find the need for my busy life to be realigned to the spiritual reality Jesus conveyed in this story. As an intentional response to this Scripture passage I’m setting a goal to take time out of a busy schedule in order to spend a block of twenty minutes every day leading up to Christmas to simply be still and acknowledge the presence of Christ in my life. I want to spend the time sitting and listening to my Savior and reflecting on this incomprehensible truth: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16 NIV)
Will you join me in this “Christmas project,” drawing aside from the distractions often associated with this special season in order to choose what is better? What is better is the Christ of Christmas.
O come let us adore Him, Christ the Lord!