This past Sunday was the second week of Advent, a four week period of preparation for the spiritual aspect of Christmas. In my church’s family guide on how to prepare for the Advent season, the first question for the family to answer is “How do we get ready for a special guest?” But before I could bring this question up at the dinner table, I had to answer it honestly for myself. I wish that I could say that in getting ready for the guest my first thought was their comfort….but….
Like everyone else, we have many visitors arriving this season and I am worried about what they will think of me. Will my house be clean enough? Will the guests be impressed? Can I serve them in every way they want? Can I treat them in such a way that will reflect well on me?
You betcha. Am I different from many? I don’t think so. I mean, I’m doing the shopping, wrapping, the majority of food prep, why wouldn’t I want an accolade here or there.
There is a powerful account of a similar woman with a similar struggle in the New Testament, Luke 10:38-32. Martha, Mary and Lazarus were good friends of Jesus. While Jesus was on his way to visit the family, type “A” Mary, the family organizer, was busy getting her house ready for her friend, without the help of her brother and sister. She was not only hosting her good friend but hosting God!- imagine the pressure.
While she continued preparations for God, her brother and sister sat with God. Martha complained to her friend about her lack of help. Jesus told Martha that she had gotten it wrong and that her sister had gotten it right.
When the choice is to prepare for the son of God or sit with him, I’d prepare too and hope that family would help so we all could sit and learn later. I mean the Son of God is coming, wouldn’t you spend extra time scrubbing and polishing?
Now, haven’t so many of us been caught in the following situation – guests are coming, we’ve been planning for weeks, then our husbands disappear or our children decide to go to the mall. It’s Thanksgiving and while we are scrambling to get the dinner on the table, family is watching the big game. We are alone with the dishes and dishes to heat and put out.
We simmer. We growl. Our event is tarnished for us, we feel put upon and used, and we are.
The world needs the type A woman. Our families require that someone organize. My intentions are divided. I want to be looked upon as a good host but also doesn’t a guest deserve clean rooms and an accommodating host? Don’t they deserve a lovely table with delicious food?
Martha was who she was and Jesus loved her for it, but Jesus told her that Mary had gotten it right. The lesson isn’t that Martha shouldn’t be Martha, its just that Martha didn’t know when to stop and enjoy – an accusation that Darling Husband frequently accuses me of. Her sister Mary (who is often lauded for her peace) didn’t know when to start- but this isn’t about her.
Okay, I’m about to switch metaphors, try to stay with me. On the one hand I can turn myself into Cinderella, all alone while cleaning the castle. But I can just as easily be the Wicked Stepmother handing down marching orders to the family before the dance.
When I can use the moment as a time to come together as a family to prepare for the guests it becomes about “we” not “I”.
If the family won’t help the way I want, I have a choice to do more or to do less, but its my choice to make. I need to see the choice for what it is and not turn it into martyrdom (does your family tell you to get off the cross too?) The best is when I can do less and be less embarrassed. I’m more relaxed and get time to be with my guest. My guest may not be God, but they sure hold God within them.
This time of year is a time for and about family. No one should be Cinderella, cleaning alone in their efforts. Its a time of joy, so we shouldn’t fill our family’s memories of us as the wicked stepmother either.
Would Jesus have cared if Martha’s house was not as clean. He loved her and Mary and Lazarus. He came to visit them not their house. If I put down the perfectionism, maybe I can sit a moment and reach to God, feel his joy in who I am and receive the peace of the season.
What is your biggest challenge to feeling the peace of the season?
Wishing you a wonderful Advent,