What is Important This Christmas Part 1: To Sit at Jesus Feet1
Today Eric Garrett starts a two part special on what is really necessary this Holiday season. Tune in tomorrow for Sheree Phillip's Part 2 post.
Well here it is...the holiday season. The traffic's getting busier, the office seems a bit more cheery, and, I confess, I'm playing Christmas music most of the time I'm in my car (at least until a few days before Christmas after I've overindulged in it). I've gotta say that I love this time of year. I love that many of us consciously spend more time with those we love. I love that aside from retail businesses on Black Friday and Christmas Eve, in general people (by the common grace of God) seem to genuinely consider others more. And yes, I love the music that proclaims the glories of our Savior's birth! But the reality is that this season can also be an energy-draining, anxiety-producing vortex.
Although the many good things that come with this season seem to motivate us for more activity, more parties, more shopping, etc., the reality is that many of us end each year stressed to the max, drained to the core, and sometimes even depressed. Many recent studies have shown how this is the most difficult time of the year for many people, and not just for those who have experiences tragedies that are associated with this season. As my experience is starting to confirm, many first world people find that this time of the year lacks a real sense of peace, joy, and love, i.e., the qualities that this season is supposed to be about. Can you agree that something's gotta give?
With this in mind, I believe Luke 10:38-42 is perhaps the most helpful passage of Scripture for us to let sink into our souls during the holiday season. In it, we see how Jesus would have us prioritize our lives in general and for this time of year in particular. Listen to what Luke has to say to us: "Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, 'Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.' But the Lord answered her, 'Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.'"
I love Martha’s. I love people who practice hospitality, people who love organizing and maintaining gatherings to the fullest. In fact, I believe this to be an overall neglected arena of spiritual cultivation in our era of mass dining out, for lack of a better term. Moreover, Jesus seems to hold hospitality as a high virtue as well. In fact, practicing hospitality seems to be a distinguishing mark of a genuine Christian (see Matt. 25:31-40)! But the reality is that any good thing, aside from the Lord Himself, can become an idol. And that seems to be what Jesus is gently warning Martha about. In her desire to serve, she became "distracted" from the one thing that Jesus says should have occupied her time and energy: him. So if such a noble activity such as hospitable service can be a distraction from the Lord, how much more might of our frantic holiday activities be a distraction from him?
And so Jesus gently warns us holiday Martha’s to not let our activities, even the most noble kind, become an idol that keeps us from spending time with him. Whatever it takes, we must not anxiously scramble about this holiday season trying to organize everything, be at every event, or meet everyone's requests at work, home, or church to the neglect of slowing down to sit at Jesus' feet. The one who created you, who sustains you, and who has saved you to bring you peace and rest with God beckons you: "Come to me all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls" (Matt. 11:28-29).
So are you anxious about the holidays? Will you live up to your family's expectations? Will you be able to do attend every event that you're invited to? Do you feel the freedom to say no to anything? Or maybe you're troubled by the amount in your Christmas budget? Maybe you've internally committed to spending more then you have and see enough of the downstream effects to burden you? Most importantly, are the anxious thoughts and hurried activities distracting you from spending unhurried time with Jesus? If this is the case, stop. For the sake of your soul, just stop. Don't go down that road (and don't try to drag anyone else down that road with you). Yes, Jesus wants you to enjoy and serve others, but he is ultimately calling you to sit at his feet and find peace and rest in him. This is the one necessary thing for you and for me to do this holiday season.
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