Every year it seems to get worse. You prepare, and run around, and “serve” in as many ways as possible. All in an attempt to set the perfect stage for Christmas. We joke about how busy the holidays are, and while some of it IS funny (last minute gift giving, ugly sweaters being bought on the way to the party, buying the last Christmas ham), we have perfected the recipe for a distracted December.

When you say the word “Christmas” to me, I think of grandma’s house. There were always enough family members around to make it easy to disappear into the happenings. I could disappear into the room downstairs for hours before people would ask where I had gone. Today, I may be helping cook or clean up and be so spaced out, it’s like I’m not in the room anyways. How can it be that being surrounded by the people you love most, or love at all, could be an empty feeling? That’s the bizarre thing about the human condition. Even if all the physical ingredients are there, and even if we follow the recipe, that may not be enough.

Your mind can become a labyrinth or create a never-ending to-do list. No matter your personality type, you can still find yourself caught up in the tornado of Holiday obligations. Our thoughts have the power, if we let them, to quite literally pull us out of a physical reality we find ourselves in (a.k.a. “the present”).

I’m a sentimentalist. I place a lot of priority on making memories, because I feel that it’s one of the only permanent things we can carry. Heck, read this blog about a t-shirt collection if you don’t believe me. (Or ask my wife. Or my mom. Or anyone who’s lived with me.)

I was remembering the “5-verse-long” story from Luke about two sisters who hosted Jesus for dinner. Mary was the sister who was no help in the kitchen or even involved in the preparations. Instead, she sat at Jesus’ feet and listened to what he taught. Martha was the one who invited/welcomed Jesus into her home and prepared an elaborate dinner in His honor. However, Martha gets chastised when she complains to Jesus about her sister’s lack of assistance. His loving words to her: “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.”

I’ve always associated myself with Mary—not for her pure motives, but mostly because I like to relax and not have much to do when people come over. Now… when I read this story I see more of myself in Martha.

When I first started reading the Bible, I found it hard to put myself in someone’s shoes who lived over 2,000 years ago, and was a woman, etc. But God has been showing me how his most valued creation has not changed much. I believe that in the divinity of God’s word, the Holy Spirit transcends all of these differing circumstances to speak to us in deep ways about the life we live today.

Martha worked harder than her sister that night. She was probably like my grandma, who wouldn’t even sit down to eat with us because she was too busy hauling endless amounts of deliciousness onto plates and platters to feed the hungry mouths around her table. And like grandma, I believe Martha did it for mostly good reasons: Love, necessity, a desire to provide and take care of others.

Alyssa and I drove 23 hours this week from Chattanooga, much of it through blowing snow, to celebrate Christmas with my family in Bismarck, ND. Honestly, it could quite possibly, be the greatest Christmas ever. My son, who has just turned two, is fully cognizant of presents and is more entertaining than a loop-de-loop hot wheels track. My brothers and their wives are coming into town and everyone will be together ON Christmas eve night for the first time in many years. I wanted to share a reminder as you read this.

When you get to the place where you’ll celebrate Christ’s birth this year, give extra effort to follow these simple themes.

1) Avoid busyness. Avoid it like your uncle under the mistletoe.

2) Make Memories. You can’t make them on your phone on the couch. If someone says, “Let’s go skiing!” or “Let’s make cookies!” Don’t hesitate.

3) Be grateful. Even if you don’t get a Gameboy or that fidget spinner thing. Or that leather handbag made out of albino llama skin. Remind yourself of everything you’ve been given throughout the whole year. Both material and not.

 

Every time you hear the words “Merry Christmas,” think of how Mary (not Martha) spent her time with Jesus. If you choose Mary’s way, your Christmas cannot be taken from you.

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