|Christmas display in Lakeland, FL|
With that in mind, I ventured to the grocery store this past weekend to stock up on all the necessary items in order to create the various dishes I have planned for our family feast. Trouble is everyone else was doing the same thing so the stores were crowded, shelves were empty of certain products, and some folks were not in a very jolly frame of mind. Listening in on various conversations as people passed by me, I could tell that minds were thoroughly engrossed on the task at hand. Discussions included who liked this or that particular item, when was uncle "so and so" arriving, and the usual concern of whether they would have enough to feed everyone. As I pushed my cart along, I couldn't help but wonder if in all the preparation we were forgetting the real reason we celebrate Thanksgiving. If, somehow, we have ignored the many blessings of God amidst the hustle and bustle of preparation. Then, I recalled the story of two women in the Bible whose approach to an important evening of eating and fellowship was completely different.
In the book of Luke 10:38-42, we read: "Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who 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.'" As we read this, it becomes evident that Martha was distracted with all the work of preparing and serving the meal while Mary sat listening to Jesus teach. I am certain that Martha had her heart in the right place by demonstrating hospitality, but she forgot the most important element of the evening....fellowship with her Lord.
Growing up, I can well remember the preparations in our household whenever it came to a big family get together such as Thanksgiving or Christmas. My mother would fly into a frenzy of preparation. She would clean the house and often it was late at night. One time, I remember waking up at 2 a.m. to the sound of a vacuum cleaner running downstairs as she put the finishing touches on the house. Everything had to be perfect. By the end of the evening following our dinner, she would collapse exhausted in a chair. I am not certain how much she really enjoyed the whole event because her sole emphasis was on the preparation and serving. She definitely had a "Martha Syndrome". In fact, many of us do have this approach unless we check ourselves by looking again at what the Lord told her.
When Martha complained about Mary not helping her, I think she expected the Lord to rebuke Mary and encourage her to pitch in and do her part. Imagine Martha's surprise when the Lord told her that she was worried and ruffled over many things, but she needed to really concentrate on only one. She needed to do what Mary had done. She needed to sit at the feet of Jesus and listen to His teaching. Martha forgot that the greatest part of fellowship is being a good listener to your guest. She had invited Him into her home to enjoy community but then, she departed to cook, serve and clean up. Couldn't the dishes have waited a little while? Did she have to have everything perfect? These are questions we all need to ask ourselves as the holidays approach.
Certainly, there are things we must do to prepare for a meal, but we need to remember what we are gathering for and why. On the first Thanksgiving, the Pilgrims desired to thank God for bringing them through their first successful harvest in the autumn of 1621. Their special guests were the Wampanoag native Americans who had taught them how to grow some of the crops they were blessed with that year. The Pilgrims rightly gathered to thank God for ultimately He was the One who had provided for their needs in this new land. In the same way, for generations, families have gathered to remember the blessings of God throughout the year or do they?
Often, Thanksgiving becomes merely a big meal day with football games, drinking and lots of cleaning up to do when the crowd goes home. There is little thought to keeping our eyes on Jesus as Mary did. We have forgotten the central reason for our hospitality. Instead of gorging ourselves on every tasty treat we can make, we need to reflect on all that God has given to us throughout the year: life, health (no matter what condition that is in), homes, food, jobs, friends, neighbors, family, clothing. If we have any of these, we are blessed. There are people in this world who would love to have even a tenth of what we have, yet, we are often ungrateful and complain not unlike Martha.
|Thanksgiving 2009 at our home|