Written by Laura Bernero
The clock read 6:42 and I was ready.
Soups were simmering on the stove. Music from my favorite Pandora station was drifting lazily through the room. The furniture was arranged neatly, with plenty of seats for all the guests. Utensils and napkins were within arms-reach of the Pinterest-worthy snacks.
It was the first big, community gathering I had ever hosted in my first apartment, and I wanted everything to be just right. I had spent much of the afternoon cleaning our space, shooing my roommates’ stuff into their respective rooms and attempting to make the place look perfectly inviting. In a word, I wanted to be prepared.
If you’re like me, you know that the pressure to be prepared is interwoven throughout the fabric of our personal and professional lives. And, when the Christmas season approaches, the pressure amps up. In order to prepare for Christmas, we feel the need to buy, to get busy, to clean the house, and to clean up our lives before guests come into town and into our living rooms. We want to be prepared.
But. What if, in preparing for the Christmas season this year, we prepared in a different way? What if preparation for us was less about hustle, and more about heart?
I want to challenge myself – and perhaps you as well – to prepare for Christmas in a different way this year. To spend time reading God’s word and sitting with him in quiet, watching the snow fall outside the window. To adorn our homes with Scripture as we adorn them with garland and lights. To let ourselves off the track of perfection and allow us to simply be ourselves as we ponder the coming of the baby Jesus on that clear night oh so many years ago. And to truly rest as we ponder his promise to bring his kingdom back to this earth someday.
Let us focus more on preparing our hearts than preparing our homes. Remember the story of Mary and Martha in the book of Luke?
Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. –Luke 10:38
Jesus, the guest of all guests, comes to the home of Martha and her sister Mary for a meal. Does this scene resonate with your heart today? In-laws are coming for Christmas dinner. Your college friend is stopping over to get a peek into your life these days. You’re in charge of hosting the block party this year.
There is a palpable pressure, isn’t there? To prepare, to rush, to get everything ready and just right. To impress the guest.
As it turns out, Mary and Martha know the feeling. And they teach us that there are two ways to deal with the pressure to prepare. We read on:
Mary sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” –Luke 10:39-42
I imagine Martha hurrying and hustling to try to create a perfect scene and impress Jesus. I imagine her kicking dirty socks under the bed, shooing messes into closets, and dusting dreary corners, all the while checking the oven temperature and checking everyone’s drink orders.
What Martha is doing is not bad, but – read carefully – it is not the most important thing. Mary has chosen to relax in her company’s presence, to be still and to be fully present in the moment. She is sitting at the feet of Jesus, in a posture of humility, focused and listening to his words. She has chosen the good portion.
The Lord’s response to Martha is the same word he speaks to us today.
“Child, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but only one thing is necessary.”
Only one thing is necessary today, friends. And that is to listen to the Lord. To be still and know that God is sovereign and will take care of us. To know that he sent his son to bear the weight of our broken hearts, and to know that he promises to come again. To know that preparation is more about the heart than the hustle.
This Christmas season, when you find yourself wanting to be perfect in your preparations, remind yourself that you are already blameless and whole in Christ Jesus. The table is already set at the heavenly banquet. The gifts and treasures that cannot be destroyed are already stored up for you in his throne room.
Only one thing is necessary, friend. Prepare your heart for his coming and be at peace.