Saturday, November 16, 2013

Have a "Mary" Christmas

Champions Corner -November 16, 2013

Marlene and I have traveled over 3,500 miles in the past month, visiting missionaries, speaking in churches and encouraging and thanking champions just like you for your part in our ministry. This month we are sharing with you a "Sabbath Reminder" that our Member Health Team writes once a quarter. This quarter, Marlene wrote this reminder for all of us as we approach the busy holiday season.
As always we thank God for you and for your support and prayers that make our missionary work possilbe. May God Bless you each one and do have a "Mary" Christmas!
I love the Holidays. Thanksgiving holds particular meaning for me because my ancestors came over on the Mayflower. We even spent one Thanksgiving in Plymouth, Massachusetts. I love the smells and sounds and tastes of the season. The years we spent Thanksgiving out of the USA were different but just as special. It's just a time that brings sweet memories to my mind. And, in our house, it's the official start of the Christmas Season. And, if I say I love Thanksgiving, I really love Christmas. The decorations. The tree. The smells. The Gifts. The baking and cooking. I could get lost in it.

When our children were small, it seems I worked around the clock for weeks to make sure that Christmas was perfect. I had in my mind what it should be. (Think Norman Rockwell) I tended to drive myself (and maybe my family) crazy trying to do everything just right. It simply had to be how I envisioned it. But, then, one Christmas, I heard a sermon. As a matter of fact, my husband, Ned, who was pastoring at the time, was the one who preached it. It was based on the familiar story found in Luke 10:38-42 of two sisters, Mary and Martha.

‘Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. 

But Martha was distracted by her many tasks, so she came to him and asked “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.” 

But the Lord answered her “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”.’
Luke 10:38-42)


It is historically believed that they may have been from an affluent family as they had a home large enough for several guests at a time. And, it is also believed that they and their brother, Lazarus, were all in their twenties and single, which would have been considered quite unusual at the time. These two sisters had very different personalities. Martha was a doer. She was cleaning, cooking, making preparations for celebrations and important visitors. She wanted everything just right. I saw myself in Martha when it came to my desire to make the Holidays perfect according to my standards. And, I thought I did it quite well, thank you very much. But, the sermon that Sunday did not glorify Martha and all that she accomplished. Or her cranky attitude about doing it all by herself when her sister should "obviously" be helping her create her perfect hostess-ing moment. No, the sermon that morning focused on her sister, Mary. It would seem that Mary didn't care at all about what was happening in the kitchen. Or maybe she knew her older sister would take care of it. Whatever the case, she chose to sit at the feet of the Master.

That in itself was unusual. Her sitting there, listening to Jesus. According to the site,, several points emerge in this story.

·         Mary ‘sat and listened’. This was the usual posture of a disciple of any teacher in the ancient world. But disciples were usually male, so Mary must have been quietly breaking the rule that reserved study for males, not females.

·         Her sister Martha was not merely asking for help. She was demanding that Mary keep to the traditional way of behaving.

·         Jesus was ignoring the traditional role of women, and encouraging Mary to think and learn. He upheld her right to listen, think about ideas, and to develop her mind. She should not be limited to the tasks that society laid down for her, but be allowed access to ideas, as Jewish men were.

·         Jesus had previously encouraged the idea of service among his followers, so he did not say that Martha’s role of service was unimportant. This would have gone against all his other teaching. What he did say was that being a disciple, and learning about the ideas he was explaining, was even more important.

But Mary sat at His feet. The title of the sermon that day was, "Have a Mary Christmas". Not a rush around, make everything perfect with as much hoopla as possible, Martha Christmas. No, “Have a Mary Christmas.”  Sit at His feet and rest there and realize that though all those other parts of celebrating are fine, His presence is truly the greatest present of all. This has changed how I do Christmas. Oh, I still want it to be as wonderful as possible. But, I've cut back tremendously on the "doing" of Christmas and attempted to focus more on the "being". It's all about relationship, after all; His relationship with us; Ours with Him; And ours with each other.

So, as you move into Holiday mode, take a moment and ask yourself if you are so busy doing that you forget to just be. Sabbath rest is our Mantra in Member Health and Care. So, from us to all of you, “Have a Mary Christmas.”