Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Only One Thing Is Needed

[This is a thought that came to me in the night. I've sent it out to people on my email list, and I'm posting it here, too, so my readers can see it if they like.]

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, "Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!"

"Martha, Martha," the Lord answered, "you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her." -- Luke 10:38-42 (NIV)

Dear Family and Friends,

This passage from Luke isn't one that normally comes to mind for Christmas Eve, but it's wonderfully appropriate for the state many of us are in at this stage of the season. We're like Martha, rushing around doing this, that, and the other thing, all to make Christmas happen for ourselves and those we love. Oh, gosh, the presents must be bought! The cards need to be sent! The tree must be up and decorated! Are the lights up yet on the house? Did we attend that all-important concert or play? What about that party we always give? Christmas dinner? Is everything in order for Christmas dinner? It's all up to us! We have to make Christmas! Without our effort Christmas won't happen!!

And woe unto us if it's not all done by the 25th! Because then we won't have Christmas this year. Because everyone knows, after December 25th, Christmas is over.

So hurry, friends! Rush, rush, rush! Christmas is tomorrow and it won't come if we don't make it! It's all up to me and you!


Christmas doesn't come because of our efforts. Christmas comes because of the unilateral work of God in His Son Jesus Christ. He's made and done everything we need and given it all to us in one human-and-divine package. And all we have to do is accept it--- accept Him-- by faith. God made His eternal Son to be born in human flesh as the child of Mary of Nazareth. Jesus lived the perfect life and kept the Law as we never could. He gave up His life on the cross to turn away the wrath of God that we deserved for our sins. He rose again from the dead to give us new life. By His Holy Spirit He makes us His brothers and sisters, sons and daughters of His heavenly Father, and credits His own righteousness to us. He promises to come again in glory to bring us into eternal, blissful, face-to-face fellowship with Himself-- and given what He's done for us already, that's a promise we can rely on.

Like us, Martha of Bethany thought it was all up to her. She had to make things perfect for Jesus Christ, the Lord. She had to do everything herself so their fellowship and communion could happen. She was angry and frustrated because young sister Mary wasn't sharing the load.

But Jesus answers her, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed."

One thing? One thing, like, just serve the Master a bowl of beans? One thing, like, "Martha, just make Me a one-dish casserole and I'll be happy with that?"

No. The One Needed Thing Jesus speaks of is simply-- Himself. Do you wish to sit down in fellowship with Jesus this Christmastide? Then give up trying to make it happen yourself. Be like Mary. Choose what is better, to sit at His feet and receive His word. Receive Him, the living Word. He is the one thing that is needed. He is the better choice that will never be taken away. Jesus does it all. Not just at Christmas, but through all the year as we seek to walk with God and know His saving presence. All we have to do is open our hands, open our ears, open our mouths, and receive.

You may say this is a cheap excuse for people like me, whose baking isn't done and who haven't sent out any cards and whose trees are yet innocent of ornaments. And I don't deny it's good, especially at Christmas, to do things that give delight to others and ourselves. It's good to show our love for family, friends, and neighbors by gift-giving and visits, by hospitality and cards and carols.

But these customs don't make Christmas in themselves: they are-- or should be-- our joyful response to and thanksgiving for the Christmas that Jesus Christ by His own work has made for us.

So as you finish up your tasks of preparation, bid worry and upset be gone! Even if you can't finish them, be confident and at peace. Christ is born, and you didn't-- you couldn't-- do a single thing to make it happen. Christ died to set you free from sin and you didn't-- you couldn't-- do one good deed to deserve it. Christ rose from the grave and defeated Death, and you didn't-- you couldn't-- lift one finger to win that victory. God made it happen in His foreknowledge and power, and He did it all out of His love for you, to the glory of His Name.

This Christmas, be like Mary of Bethany. Choose the One Thing that is better. Choose Jesus Christ, and He and all His benefits will never be taken from you.

Merry Christmas to all!
St. Blogwen


whiskers said...

Merry Christmas! I hope your day, and all the other days, is as happy as mine has been.


Sandy said...

You are so right. I always try to remember that but ended up forgetting that as I rushed on 12/23 trying to wrap last minute things -- and ended up ruining our Christmas by being flat on my back for the rest of the week. I'm betting I keep my priorities straight next Christmas!

I hope you had a beautiful Christmas.