Martha comes out of the kitchen weary, sweat beading down her brow and wispy hair coming undone to complain of her sister Mary’s laziness. Jesus directly, but kindly tells Martha her striving is done in vain. She is told to do as her sister, to stop the striving and do what is right, which is to sit at his feet.
Can I insert, “I hear you Jesus, but who is going to make the dinner? The kids aren’t going to feed themselves, nor are the disciples helping out in a woman’s world to make the food.”
Too Many Options
When I’m in line at the grocery store every single Christmas season, my eyes are met with a food magazine of must try 20 best Christmas cookies. It’s not only the cookies or at the stores, I see it if I open up Pinterest, Facebook, or even open my inbox. Someone is trying to get my attention to tell me why their way of doing Advent, Christmas, holiday traditions will be just.what.I.need. Striving, striving, striving, and little sitting, resting, pausing.
I catered my husband’s company Christmas open house this weekend. On Friday night as I was grocery shopping I ran into an old friend. We caught up with one another and I managed to ask her advice on what I should choose for my menu. Of course, my options included up to five desserts and six savory options. Whispering in my ear was my second grade art teacher, “less is more,” in the form of my friend. She reassured me two desserts would be sufficient. I heeded her advice and it was more than enough.
Hospitality Not Hostility
Walking away from the weekend reflecting on hospitality and what it looks like in this very specific Christmas season. Often times I hear people speak of hospitality being the food, or the decor, or even the hostess. Truly, hospitality is turning the hostis (enemy) into hospes (guest), which is the hostility into hospitality.
Maybe I don’t make the same cookies I make every year. If making that cookie platter causes me to strive instead of sitting to see the babe in the manger, how can I offer genuine hospitality? If I’m more focused on the gifts under the tree than the greatest gift, how can I see the value in his gift of hospitable love? If I’m bustling about striving for perfection, fulfilling some false god of self in the name of hospitality; yet, I neglect to sit and adore Immanuel, all this work is done in vain.
Mary Sits, Martha Strives
So maybe when Jesus spoke to Martha it wasn’t about her need to cook dinner. I think Jesus is quite aware of the 11th hour and children not being fed means CRAZY time. What I do think he’s referring to is a warning for Martha, for me, for all of us. He’s reminding me to not make a production out of the holidays, or when guests come over.
There is a fine line between creating beauty through a space or food for people, because we want them to delight in it and doing all this because we are building accolades for ourselves.
If I am making the Christmas morning cinnamon rolls because everyone expects them at the expense of my relationships with those people, it’s not worth it. If I’m hustling about this whole season to get it all done, and never taking pause, Christmas turns into a happy event versus a joyful one. Happiness will fade once the presents are opened, the food is devoured and all I’m left with is dirty dishes and wrapping paper to clean up. I will become disgruntled like Martha.
On the other hand, when we come sitting, not striving, at the feet of Jesus, we find joy. It turns into a season of thankfulness and rejoicing that God indeed heard our cries and sent Immanuel, God with Us. We see that the crumpled paper and bows, food stained plates are simply gifts in a reflection of the Giver of all gifts. He is our source of hope, hospitality, and love. But we first must sit, as He reminds us we never need to strive in his presence.