I must admit the idea for this post came from a magazine article in this month’s Home Life Magazine. The article was written by Karen Kingsbury . In the article she tells of a time her young daughter made her a Christmas picture and wrote “Mary Christmas.” Karen related it to the story of Mary and Martha in Luke chapter 10. Even though it was a child’s simple mistake it was still a profound statement.
“38 As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem they came to a village where a woman named Martha welcomed them into her home. 39 Her sister Mary sat on the floor, listening to Jesus as he talked.
40 But Martha was the jittery type and was worrying over the big dinner she was preparing.
She came to Jesus and said, "Sir, doesn't it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me."
41 But the Lord said to her, "Martha, dear friend, you are so upset over all these details! 42 There is really only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it-and I won't take it away from her!" TLB
That got me to thinking about the story and about the upcoming Christmas holiday. I tend to be more like Martha instead of Mary, worrying about the details and then I wonder why I always dread the Christmas season. So how can we be less like Martha, caught up in the craziness and more like Mary and focus on “The One thing worth our concern?” A few years ago I purchased a book to give away at a Christmas dinner, but never gave it away. The title is Simplify Your Christmas: 100 Ways to Reduce the Stress and Recapture the Joy of the Holidays by Elaine St. James.
Here are some tips from the book, as well as some I found on the Internet to help us simplify Christmas.
1. Delegate: Divide up things that need to be done. Categorize them into three groups: things that must be done, things to do if you have time, things that can be eliminated. Then ask for help from friends and family members to do the things on the “must do” list. “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work” Eccl 4:9 (NIV)
2. Let guests help. If you are hosting a party or Christmas dinner, invite guests to bring something. Ask what they would like to bring whether it is food or the centerpiece. Use disposable dishes and flatware. If someone objects, let them be in charge of clean up. Most people would rather use disposable dishes than spend hours washing fine china and stemware.
3. Prepare some things early and freeze them. A lot of soups and desserts can be fixed weeks in advance and will save you time and anxiety. “She gets up while it is still dark; she provides food for her family “ Prov 31:15 (NIV)
4. Limit activities. You don’t have to attend every party and function you are invited to. Ask yourself if you really are interested or really want to attend. If you answer “No.” Politely decline. You can even tell the host you are trying to simplify Christmas. Your children also don’t have to be involved in every party, play or performance. Spend your time wisely. “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: “ Eccl 3:1 (NIV)
5. Exercise. Kevin and I were just talking today after we walked at the mall, how a little exercise energizes you. A brisk walk in the fresh crisp air will give you time to relax and refocus on what you need to get done. Learn a couple of yoga moves to help relieve stress and don’t forget to breathe. 1 Cor 6:19-20 tells us “ Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body. “ (NIV)
6. Look at Christmas from a child’s perspective. What is really important to them. Would they rather make cookies, drink cocoa and sing carols, watch at favorite movie together? Remember to spend time with your children and make stress-free memories with them. Teach them how to enjoy the Season and to know they are high on your priority list.
7. Stay flexible. If the turkey burns it won’t be the end of the world, just go with the flow, make lemonade from those lemons. If someone cancels at the last minute make some plates to go and take them to an elderly person you know, or take the whole meal to a less fortunate family. If someone drops by unexpectedly be gracious and hospitable anyway. You may be the only person that shows them kindness. ”Be hospitable to one another without complaint.” 1 Peter 4:9 NAS
8. Be organized. Keep a calendar with large enough blocks to write everyone in the family’s activities. Try to keep a limit on activities so you and your family won’t be stretched thin so stress can take over. Make a list each evening of things that need to be done the next day, whether it’s shopping for gifts, grocery shopping, errands to run, bills to pay etc. Make a list and stick to it. Prioritize your errands. At the end of the day if you didn’t get everything done on your list, start your new list with those items. I love marking things off my list. It gives me the feeling I am getting things accomplished “diligence is man's precious possession.” Prov 12:27 NKJV
9. Spend less. Take a poll from your family members to get a consensus on how much to spend on gifts. You may be surprised to find out other family members are stretched in their budget too and might find it a relief to for-go gifts for the adults this year or at least set a spending limit. Quality time is the most precious gift you can give. Pool your money with other family members if a gift costs more than you can afford. Resist the temptation to use your credit card for purchases that are out of your means. Prov 22:7 “The borrower is servant to the lender.” (NIV)
10. Stop being a perfectionist. This is one of my own personal demons. I have done better in the past few years, but have to constantly fight off the will to make everything perfect. If we really stop to think about it there has only been one perfect person to walk this earth and He is the one we are celebrating this Christmas season. No one will really notice if there are dust bunnies in the corner and if they do, hand them the broom. I have found that most of the time all those little details I stressed over didn’t really have any effect on the outcome of the occasion. I only made myself crazy. Let it go and let Christ be the perfect one. “And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him;” Heb 5:9 KJV
So as the Christmas Season fast approaches, let us strive not to follow Martha’s example and be anxious about the details, but instead follow Mary’s example and discover the One thing worth our concern. Have a Mary Christmas.