What do you look forward to the most about Christmas? Gifts? Seeing your family on Christmas day? Is it seeing your friends and community members at parties and concerts that continue all through December? Christmas brings a feeling of joy, community, and hope. During college I worked at a restaurant called Bob Evans. One night, I was washing dishes until late at night. We had been very busy that day and had to work extra late to clean up. Most of the staff were tired and ready to go home. As I was nearly done washing dishes, I heard the voice of our manager, Cliff. His tone sounded different from the rest of us. The rest of us were exhausted. We just wanted to go home and go to bed. But not Cliff. Cliff was exuded joy as he went about his work. As he approached me, I turned around and inquired, “Why are you so happy?” He replied, “It’s Christmas.” In the busyness of the night, in the lateness of the hour, I had completely forgotten that it was the night before Christmas Eve. The next day, we would close early to enjoy a Christmas Eve service with our families. And then, Christmas Day would come. Our families would gather. We would celebrate the coming of Christ.
Does that ever happen to you? Think of everything you must get done this holiday season. The Christmas tree and decorations need to go up. The gifts need bought and wrapped. Christmas cookies need to be baked, decorated, and delivered. The meal needs to be planned, purchased, preserved, and prepared. The kids need to be taken to their school concerts and Christmas parties. The list gets longer and longer. The stress builds. I am reminded of the story of Mary and Martha. In Luke 10, Jesus is visiting their house. Martha is rushing around the house preparing the meal for Jesus and the other guests. Mary is sitting at Jesus’ feet listening to him. Imagine the frustration and stress that must have been building up in Martha. There was so much to do. Food needed cooked. The table needs set. Meanwhile, Mary is simply listening to Jesus. I feel like our culture pulls us toward the Martha side of the equation. Get the to do list done, then use the dregs of our cup to hear from Jesus. The realization hit me when my manager walked up that in my stress and busyness, I had completely forgotten the reason that we had been so busy. People were doing their last minute shopping. They were enjoying time with family and friends from out of town. We had served people who were enjoying their Christmas holiday, just as we would be doing the next two days. When Cliff reminded me of this, it lifted me up and helped me to refocus on the reason for what was going on all around me. I pray that for you as well. In the midst of the busyness, remember the Christ of Christmas.