It is the start of another season of Advent, the season in which we prepare our hearts and minds for the coming of Jesus at Christmas. It is also the season when we shop, cook, bake, clean and get ready for celebrating the holidays together. It is a season for quiet reflection and frantic preparations – or at least it feels that way sometimes. A cartoon I saw online today shows that tension. In the first panel, labeled “One Sunday in Advent,” the pastor has her arms outstretched in welcome at the front of the sanctuary, advent candle lit beside her, and she says “Slow down. Quiet. It’s Advent.” And in the next panel, labeled “One Monday in Advent,” she is in her office after worship, and the voices all around her are saying “Planned the services yet? Got the music yet? Ordered Poinsettias? Who’s making wreaths? Christmas party at your place? Hurry up – get busy - it’s Advent!” and a small child asks, “Done your shopping yet, Mom?” I hope you are smiling at this image - because it is not just pastors who feel this way. Advent puts each one of us into that place of tension. We desire to prepare well, to slow down, and to enjoy the season. But for many of us, there is so very much to do during this season, and slowing down seems an impossible goal.
I am reminded of Jesus’ encounter with the sisters Mary and Martha. In Luke 10 we read that Jesus visited them at their home. Mary chooses to sit and listen to Jesus teach his disciples. Martha is annoyed that her sister has skipped out on the duties expected of a hostess, and complains to Jesus, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself?” But Jesus replies in a way Martha did not expect, saying “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”
It is the last sentence of Jesus’ that I hold onto during this busy season. I want to choose the better part, to choose those things that will not be taken away. Yes, the dishes need to be washed and dinner needs to be started if it is to be on time. But maybe the dishes can wait, and maybe dinner can be simpler - or even late. I want to give up distractions and focus on what truly matters. People matter more than things, and our relationship with Jesus matters most of all.
Martha tried to do everything, let’s follow Mary’s lead and do what truly matters.
In the abundance of this season, let’s choose well where to put our time and our energy. Let’s follow Mary’s lead and find time to sit at the feet of Jesus.