Luke’s gospel narrates the account of two sisters who one day welcomed Jesus and his entourage of disciples into their home for a meal. Martha was the consummate hostess: a flurry of activity, every contingency anticipated, every detail handled, and every dish carefully prepared. Minus the insider trading scandal, she was a virtual Martha Stewart before her time — but without the grace, for the earlier Martha was especially irked that her sister Mary, rather than helping with the preparations, just sat there at Jesus’ feet along with the disciples, soaking up what he taught and marveling in who he was. Yet when Martha complained to Jesus, he commended not her diligence or extravagance but Mary’s focus on what is most important. To paraphrase his gentle rebuke (Luke 10:41-42): You needn’t be so elaborate, Martha. Tone it down a notch in the kitchen so that you can join your sister in the living room, listening to me, embracing my message, allowing God to do His work in you.
Perhaps that’s a fitting caution for us during this holiday season that too easily becomes frenzied with activity — shopping, wrapping, baking, entertaining, traveling, juggling a calendar full of parties and events — often to the point that we lose sight of what really matters. Not that those activities are bad. They just sometimes accumulate to leave us no margin, no time to be still and reflect, to listen, to consider and pursue the one whose humble birth Christians celebrate this month. Perhaps we, like Martha, would do well to tone it down a notch, to simplify our celebration, so that we, like Mary, may sit at his feet.
This devotional by Doug Dean was published in the December 4 "Salt & Light" column of the weekly newspaper The InterTown Record.