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Summary: Holiday stress can be dealt with by keeping our minds focused on what is really important. Here we examine three biblical principles that will help us maintain that focus, and allow us to enjoy a truly stress-free celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ.

Title: Stress On Earth, Humbug Toward Men

Text: Luke 10:38-42

Experts tell us that while the Christmas holidays are an exciting time for worship and family, not all people have the same happy experiences. During this season some talk of having the blues, many experience more severe forms of depression, and incidents of suicide increase. This may seem bizarre to Christians who celebrate the birth of the Savior, but for many, this time of year brings much sadness and gloom.

Though not to such a degree as this, it is not uncommon for Christians to also experience a great deal of stress during the holidays. But how do we handle the stress? Is it possible that we can actually take time to enjoy the holiday season? I believe so. As we look at this passage in Luke, though not a “Christmas” text, we can certainly find some biblical principles that will help us to cope in this hectic season of the year, and help us to maintain our focus on what is really important, the birthday of our Savior.

I. MAINTAIN YOUR FOCUS BY MANAGING YOUR CIRCUMSTANCES. (Luke 10:40a)

But Martha was distracted with much serving…

A. Distractions Cause Stress. (Philippians 3:13-14)

Illustration: A Rubber Band.

A rubber band, if stretched, will return to its normal, relaxed position when the external force is removed. The body’s stress response is also stretched whenever it is subjected to any emergency or demand. The rubber band ought to return to a normal, relaxed state when the demand is removed. But if stretched for a long time and held, it loses its elastic properties and will eventually snap. The same can happen to us when exposed to constant stress. In this holiday season we must learn to manage our circumstances in order to eliminate the distractions and remove unnecessary stress.

1. Life is filled with distractions.

2. Paul understood this, and learned to keep his focus on the ultimate goal.

a. In our context, the many distractions of the season are the “things which are behind.”

b. The true purpose of Christmas are “those things which are ahead.”

c. Our ultimate goal is to celebrate the birthday of Jesus.

d. Any activity on our “To Do List” that does not focus on the ultimate goal needs to be reevaluated and possibly removed.

B. “Much Serving” Is A Distraction. (Luke 12:29-31)

1. If God wants us to be free from stress about supplying our daily needs, then it is entirely unacceptable that we worry about the non-essentials.

2. When our work, even in the ministry, begins to distract us from our relationship with God, our work becomes an idol, and a major source of stress.

C. We Can Eliminate Much Of Our Stress By Managing Our Circumstances. (Hebrews 12:1-2)

1. Lay aside the non-essentials; not all of the activities we involve ourselves in during the holidays are necessary.

2. Look to Jesus; after all, it’s His birthday.

II. MAINTAIN YOUR FOCUS BY RESTRAINING YOUR REACTIONS. (Luke 10:40b)

…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."

Quote: Burnout is not the result of too much activity. It is the result of the wrong kind of activity. (John A. Stroman, “God’s Downward Mobility,” CSS Publishing, 1996).

Note: How we react to stress may lead to sinful behavior.

A. Martha Accused The Lord.

1. “Do you not care?”

2. In her own mind she had already determined the answer to the question.

3. If the Lord had cared, He would have done something to rectify what she saw as an obvious imbalance in sharing the household duties.

B. Martha Accused Mary.

1. “My sister has left me to serve alone.”

2. Martha considered service to be more important than worship.

a. This is a typical attitude of those who are blessed with the gift of service when they fail to allow the Holy Spirit to control their gift.

b. We often have to deal with the “no one does anything around here but me” attitude.

c. When we begin to see quantity of service as more important than quality of worship, we have missed the mark.

d. We are all saved to serve, but compromising our worship for the sake of service is always wrong.

e. We should also point out that neglecting service in the name of worship is equally wrong.

f. There must be a balance in our worship and service, and worship must always have our first priority.

g. We cannot serve effectively until we have first worshiped faithfully.

3. What is lost in this passage is the fact that Jesus is teaching, for Mary sat at His feet and “heard His word.”

a. In Martha’s preoccupation with serving, she not only missed an opportunity to worship the Lord, but to hear His teaching as well.

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