Since I consider myself a Martha, I have to confess that the story of Jesus and Mary and Martha in Luke 10 has always kind of bugged me. Jesus is visiting the sisters and while he’s there, Mary sits at Jesus’ feet and listens to him talk while Martha scurries all over the place—cleaning, making food, wrapping presents, baking cookies, shopping for all the family, decorating the house, hanging the stockings by the chimney with care…. OK, maybe she wasn’t doing ALL of those things, but she was working hard and she complained to Jesus. She asked him if he cared that she was doing all the work while her sister was just sitting around. “Tell her to help me, Jesus,” she said. But Jesus told her that Mary had chosen the better thing because it could not be taken from her.
Can I just say that I think it would have been so much better if Jesus said, “Oh, sorry Martha. You’re right, you ARE doing way more than your share of the work. Mary, let’s get up and help your sister. Then after all the work is done, you both can sit down and listen to my stories.” But alas, I did not write the bible [thankfully], and it says what it says.
On Wednesday at Holy Yoga, our teacher Hannah read this story, which was a perfect story for Advent. And the way she read it made me see the story in a new way. When she read Jesus’ words to Martha, she read them with such grace and compassion. It was like I suddenly heard them as Jesus just being bummed out that Martha was so busy and distracted all the time. And he just wanted her to spend some time with him.
For me, it was an invitation to stop all my scurrying this season and take a seat. “Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” [Luke 10:42]
Into this busy time of year when there are always 10 things to be done, I heard, thanks to Hannah, that Jesus offers us something different. And while it may be true for a lot of us that if we don’t do the shopping the kids won’t get gifts, the truth is, they often don’t even remember the gifts they got from year to year, for they are not the important thing.
So I’m going to try and sit and listen a little better this Advent. Because God’s word can’t be taken away from us. So to all of you dear Marthas, who are worried and upset my many things, know this: Jesus loves you, forgives you, and invites you to a life that is so much better than all that busy-ness. So sit a minute, take a breath, and believe. [do it right now!] And then you can finish your baking.
A blessed Advent to you all.