Friday, December 16, 2016

Are You a Mary or a Martha (Stewart)?

As the number of days before Christmas decreases and the number of parties and other activities requiring baked goods and presents increases, how are you feeling? Once upon a time, I felt a little like Martha Stewart – with a perfectly decorated tree that we had hunted and cut in the Pocono Mountains; every crystalline ornament delightfully, insightfully placed on the perfect, fragrant branch. With a myriad of Christmas cookies baked and at the ready, and a pile of presents neatly wrapped, with spares, just in case. Christmas cards were naturally addressed and mailed on Black Friday, right after I returned from the 4 AM holiday shopping. It felt good to be so prepared.

Fast forward 10 years and 6 children, and Christmas looks vastly different. Yes, there’s still a fresh cut tree, but it’s nearly bare because the toddlers can’t resist playing catch with all those shiny plastic balls.  The last few ornaments, scattered at the top, hang on by barely a thread. Needles litter the floor because this not-so-evergreen tree was hastily snatched from the grocery store parking lot and has seen a few too many days without water. Decorations are sparse throughout the house, because, well, there just aren’t very many anymore and who has the time to put them all up? And, if I'm being completely frank, I’m just so thankful for Amazon Prime and free 2-day shipping or I would never get those presents bought before Christmas day. Instead of prepared, it feels harried, and stressful, and tiring. Christmas feels like a lot of work, says this version of me that has somehow been a little too influenced by the Grinch, and not enough influenced by the Christ Child. That’s it, really. Christmas shouldn’t be so inconvenient, so time-consuming, so much effort. But the birth of Christ was certainly not convenient. Not for Joseph, not for the shepherds in the cold dark night, and certainly not for Mary.

Mary, the mother of Jesus, once an innocent, young girl, awaiting her marriage, waiting to begin the rest of her life, bore the inconvenience of a pregnancy she didn’t plan.  In Mary’s world, all her hopes and dreams would have been shattered by a baby born outside of marriage. In Mary’s world, the very man she was about to marry could have pressed charges against her for becoming pregnant. In Mary’s world, she could, by law, have been stoned to death for becoming pregnant by someone other than her husband.  Who would believe her that this child belonged to only God and not to some other man? Who would believe her that this scandal was a gift of God? Everything was at risk. It wasn’t just an inconvenience, it was the end of her very world. Everything she had prepared for paled in comparison to the impending birth.

Was Mary afraid? Worried about giving birth? Was she afraid that her husband-to-be would have her arrested and stoned for this baby she carried? Was she frustrated at the inconvenience of the child she hadn’t planned on? Was she anxious about what the future would hold?

Are you anxious about what the future may hold? Are you frustrated by the inconvenience of special needs you never planned on? Are you afraid about what life is going to look like in a few months or years?

And Mary said,
“My soul glorifies the Lord
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has been mindful
    of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
    for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
    holy is his name.
His mercy extends to those who fear him,
    from generation to generation." (Luke 1:46-50, NIV)

Mary, who had everything to lose, rejoiced in the God who asked her to risk it all for the sake of His Son. Mary praised God for the gift of the One-of-a-Kind Child she would carry in her womb. She praised Him for making her blessed and she worshiped Him for the mercy He was about to show through His Son. Mary, who had every reason to be afraid, every reason to be anxious, and stressed, and frustrated – Mary, rejoiced. And when all was said and done, and the Christ Child was born, and God was with us and among us, and the angels announced His birth and the shepherds came to worship, we see that Mary - Mary who gave up everything to love this infant King - did the most amazing thing. Mary treasured all these things, and pondered them often, in her heart. (Paraphrase of Luke 2:19).  

Mary remembered the things that God had done and treasured them in her heart.

I want to feel more like Mary than Martha Stewart. In this time of preparation, rather than reciting wish lists, and crossing off grocery lists, and baking cookies, and shopping, and wrapping, and shopping some more, I need to reflect on what God has done. When you’re more fearful than festive, more weary, more worried than prepared. When you are wondering if you’ve given up everything to love a special child, and everything you spent your life preparing for is at risk, remember the blessed mother of Jesus. Remember the mom who kissed the precious toes of our Savior and Lord, who cradled the Christ King in her own weary arms. Ponder those things that God has done, and let the glorious good news announced by the angels and proclaimed to the shepherds resonate in your heart. And treasure it up, indeed.

God in heaven,
I praise You for the gift of Your Son. For the mercy that You poured out on all people of the earth through His birth, His life, His death, His resurrection. For the mercy that You have poured out on me. In this busy time of preparation, please help me set aside the worry, the fear, the stress, and to treasure the gifts You have given me, especially, Your Son. Help me to reflect the love that Mary showed the Christ Child and the love that You have shown to me.

In the name of Jesus,

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