Summary: By looking at the story of Jesus in the home of Mary and Martha we find what is really "needed" during the Christmas holiday season.
December 6, 1998
A little boy and a little girl were singing their favorite Christmas carol in church the Sunday before Christmas. The boy concluded “Silent Night” with the words, “sleep in heavenly beans.”
His sister elbowed him, and said, “No. Not beans, peas!”
The way many of us feel by the time we are ready for Christmas, the song might just as well end with beans or peas instead of peace. Because sometimes in the frantic rush to get everything done the peace of the season seems to elude us.
I’ve tried to compile a list of potential things that happen at this time of year which may contribute to increased stress during the holiday season. See if any of these ring a bell, no holiday pun intended.
Shopping for gifts
Getting to the necessary holiday parties
Putting up the decorations
Cooking a meal
Wrapping the gifts
Making enough cookies and breads to give away
Buying a tree
Fighting the traffic
Having enough money to buy gifts
(If married) Figuring out when to celebrate at both sets of parents without offending either
All the stores are out of the gift you’re looking for
Three frightening words – Some assembly required
Having the right clothes for social occasions
Christmas programs for the kids at school and at church
Untangling the strands of lights
Sending out Christmas cards
Hearing “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer” for the 150th time
Cleaning the house
Forgetting someone for whom you should have purchased a gift
Feeling the pressure to make a memory
Knowing the year is coming to a close and you didn’t accomplish what you intended to
Facing relatives you don’t get along with
All of your work is due on a rapidly approaching December 25 deadline
Knowing that maybe you’ll spend Christmas alone
Three often overlooked words – batteries not included
Being a part of a family that celebrates separately because of a divorce
Christmas lights that won’t work
Arranging travel schedules
Missing loved ones who have passed away
Paying off the credit cards
Weeding through crowded stores
Members of your family who find where you hid their presents.
When you compile a list like this, it’s easy to see why Christmas is a major period of increased stress for many people.
Does Christ have anything to say to us in the midst of this season of hurry and rush? I believe he does. After all, it’s his birthday party, so what does he think about all of this?
There’s a humorous little story in the Gospel of Luke that shows how busyness and stress gets in the way of what matters most. It wasn’t his birthday, but it was a party, and Jesus was the honored guest.
READ LUKE 10:38-42
38As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40But 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!”
41“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
Understanding what Jesus said to Martha about Mary, it’s easy to see that…
THESIS: We will enjoy the season much more when simply focus on what is “needed.”
I. WHAT IS STRESS?
A. Martha said, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” (Luke 10:40)
I think Martha was experiencing some stress.
Rushing around trying to get everything ready – after all Jesus was in her house!
“Doesn’t anyone care how busy I am?” she thinks. She comes in the room with hors d’oeuvres, “Oh, Mary, dear sister, there you are! Don’t bother getting up. And, Jesus, I wish I could stay and chat like SOME people, but you’ll all be wanting freshly crushed grape juice soon, so I guess I’ll just go back to the kitchen where I’m working ALONE.”
B. Stress is your body’s alarm system.
1. “No one can live without experiencing some degree of stress. You may think that only serious disease or intensive physical or mental injury can cause stress. This is false. Crossing a busy intersection, exposure to a draft, or even sheer joy are enough to activate the body’s stress mechanism to some extent. Stress is not even necessarily bad for you; it is also the spice of life, for any emotion, any activity, causes stress.” (Hans Selye, in The Stress of Life)