28 November 2007

This Christmas, will you be Mary, or Martha? (part 1)

I’d like to open up with a little poem I wrote for this time of year:

‘Twas two days before Christmas, and all through the stores,
People had everything, but still needed more.
The stockings were filled with brand new CD’s,
And little ol’ gadgets that played mp3’s.

Mom and dad thought that their shopping concluded,
Until they realized “batteries not included.”
Well they hustled and bustled and grumbled and griped
Each time the cashier made a credit card swipe.

If only they’d taken a moment or two
To realize that Christmas ain't about me and you.
It’s not about gadgets and big shopping malls.
It’s not even about spending money at all.

This wonderful Christmas time we all observe
Is to remember when Jesus came to this earth
To offer salvation, a gift given for free
That He bought with His blood on Calvary’s tree.

So this Christmas time when your patience grows thin,
Just chill out, relax, and spend time with Him.

Over the last twenty or so years—in fact it probably goes further back than that—we have really lost sight of what Christmas is all about. It’s not about who gets the most toys, or the most expensive stuff. It’s not about wasting a year’s pay on a bunch of stuff that isn't going to amount to a hill of beans in ten years. It should be about taking a day to reflect on the fact that while we were yet sinners, Our Lord Jesus Christ left His throne in glory, took on the form of a human, was conceived in the womb of a young virgin, and was born in a manger—whether it was a stable or a cave, it doesn’t matter—He left His glory behind to walk among us. John 1 tells us: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God... And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

It has been said that this year that families will spend, on average, about $1000 per person—per family member—on Christmas gifts. Why? Everybody rushes around the stores, fighting crowds—literally, fighting—just so they can get the latest, greatest thing, that will soon be put up on a shelf and quickly forgotten. Then next year, we go out and do it all over again. Why?

Instead of giving all our money to Sears, and Best Buy and Circuit City and Macy’s and Kohl’s—and let’s not forget the Lexus “December to Remember”—wouldn’t it be great if we just didn’t worry about it? Wouldn’t it be something if we just said, “Ya know, Christmas is about Christ, and I’m going to make Him the object of Christmas. He gave me a gift I don’t ever have to return—in fact I don’t ever want to give it back. It was made just for me. It will never get old, or boring, or too small or too big. And I want to give it to other people as well.” Think about this: Wal-Mart is going to be open on Christmas. That is disgusting. The day that should be set aside to reflect on what God did by sending His only Son in the form of sinful flesh to this planet—and to some people, it’s just another day to make money.

But we are reaping what we have sown. This country—including many in the church—has bought into this American lifestyle that says, “You need to have everything! And you don’t have everything unless you have this and this and that and something else.” And we have listened to these commercials that say that we have to be all busy busy busy cooking and decorating and stringing up lights and organizing Christmas parties. When we should just be still, because all these trappings and all the cooking and baking and decorating and stringing up lights—they're nice, but we've gotten to the point now where we have gone seriously overboard, and we've taken the cooking and shopping and baking and lights and the parties, and we have made these things the center of our attention. We are worried and troubled about many things. When one thing is needed.

Luke 10:38-42 isn't a passage you would normally associate with Christmas, but looking at the world around us, and what they have turned Christmas into, I think it is appropriate.

38 Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. 40 But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.” 41 And Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. 42 But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.”

I don’t think there is a more tender admonition in the entire Bible than when Jesus simply says, “Martha, Martha.” Around here we’d say something like, “Bless her heart!” If Jesus had been born in East Tennessee, He probably would have said something like, “Good ol’ Martha, She’s got so much going on, bless her heart!!” If you think about it, we are Martha! We’re so busy, “Ooh, gotta go here, gotta go there—Hey Mary! Get up and help me here! Lord, look at me! I’m rushing around, trying to get everything organized! Would you please tell her to get up out of the chair and do something around here?

“Martha, Martha.”

First, we see that MARY WAS FIXATED ON THE LORD. Look at verses 38-39. So many times we get caught up in serving and doing that we sometimes forget to just sit and listen to the Master.

If you were to talk to 20 couple who had been married for their whole lives, and you asked them, “What are your favorite memories of your spouse?” I doubt you would hear an answer like, “I remember all the times she would take the kids to soccer and football and baseball and dance and cheerleading, then she’d go shopping and come home and fix dinner and do the dishes and fall asleep on the couch as soon as she got done.” Instead, you would probably hear something like, “I'll never forget the times we would just sit and hold hands, or go for walks. We’d just talk all night—or we would just be silent.” Sometimes, that’s all Jesus wants from us. To just chill, relax, get quiet, and spend time in prayer, or in the Word.

Because it is in those times when you will find Him. And when the whole world is buzzing around your head; when your job is stressing you out, or you finally get the kids to bed, or the neighbors are fighting—again, or that guy with that loud stereo just HAS to park his car right under your window—again. That’s when you find yourself a quiet corner—even if it’s the bathroom. ‘Cause God can hear ya talkin’ even when you're in the bathroom.

Think about it. Paul and Silas prayed from a Roman jail—not exactly the most sanitary place in the world. Jeremiah got thrown into a well. And he prayed when he was up to his armpits in mud. Daniel prayed from inside of a lion’s den. Anybody been to the zoo and know what IT smells like? In Matthew chapter 6, Jesus tells us to get someplace secret. Matthew 6:6“But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.” What about poor old Elijah? He’s hiding in a cave, everybody’s out to get him, he decides to throw himself a big old pity party. 1st Kings 19 says that there was an earthquake, then a tornado, then a fire. But the LORD wasn’t in any of these. But He was in the stillness that came after these things.

See, Jesus isn't in the rushing around. He isn't in the shopping. He isn't in the cooking or baking or planning your trip over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house. You want to know where He is? He’s in the quietness. When you just sit and become fixated on Him, and reflect upon His greatness, His goodness, His faithfulness, and His love for us. He is in words like these:

Oh holy night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of the dear Saviour's birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,

Till He appear'd and the soul felt its worth.

A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the angel voices!
Oh night divine, Oh night when Christ was born.

Truly He taught us to love one another,
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother,

And in His name all oppression shall cease.

Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord! O praise His Name forever,
His power and glory evermore proclaim.

This Christmas, let’s be like Mary, shall we? And just remain FIXATED ON THE LORD.


Part 2 tomorrow.

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