final_advent_cover4.jpgBut Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:40-42 (NIV)

Last Christmas we entertained family at our house. We served dinner and opened presents. Later while everyone visited, I headed to the kitchen to clean up. There I stood alone with the dirty dishes feeling irritated and resentful. Then I remembered something my sister and I say to keep each other in line; “Stop being a Martha.” With a smile, I put down the dishes and began to enjoy my family along with everyone else.

We’re referring to Martha of Mary and Martha, of course. Two sisters host Jesus on His journey from Jerusalem, and while Mary sits at Jesus’ feet eating up everything He has to say, Martha is busy in the kitchen feeling sorry for herself. She then complains to Jesus and asks Him to reprimand Mary for not helping her. Jesus does the opposite. He tells Martha that she needs to get her priorities in order and that she could learn something from her sister, Mary.

Is this you? Do you ever get so focused on the busyness of entertaining that you lose the joy that God intends it to be? As Christians, God calls us to practice hospitality. This is not simply entertaining—true hospitality is practicing generosity. It requires opening our hearts as well as our homes. However, when our focus on busy work comes before a heart of servitude, we can become overwhelmed, exhausted, and even resentful.

No doubt our need to practice hospitality tends to be in overdrive around the holidays. We serve at the school party, office party, church party, for the in-laws—the list goes on and on. It can be stressful to open our hearts and be generous day after day and event after event. And it’s true: busy work has to be done in order for these events to be enjoyable. But Jesus calls us to bring glory and honor to Him no matter what we do and to assign priority to the actions we choose. Mary’s heart clearly honored Jesus as she sat at His feet, but because Martha’s heart was full of worry and angst, she missed out on the blessing that Jesus had for her. He made it clear that He was more concerned with matters of the heart. Regarding hospitality, how does your heart look this season?

Dear God, give me a heart of generosity. Help me to find the joy in being hospitable, and instruct me to know the proper time to work and to fellowship.

Do you tend to be more like Martha or Mary? What does your heart look like when you are practicing true hospitality?