Luke 10: 38-42 Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.” And Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.”

Christmas can become a very stressful time when we allow it. There are decorations to hang, gifts to purchase, plays to attend, business to finish, family situations to navigate, food to fix, and the list goes on endlessly. Many are the givers and more are the receivers. It can be a frantic time.

Though not technically a Christmas story, the story of Mary and Martha is indeed a story that plays out in families and organizations at Christmas time. Everyone knows a Martha. Martha is frantically trying to decorate the perfect house, buy the perfect gift, take the perfect Christmas photo, and be all things to all people. Yet, Christmas holds little joy. It holds far more resentment. There’s resentment of a sibling not doing a perceived part or a spouse not “stepping up”. Thoughts race about overwork and under-appreciation. Anger simmers. Joy slips away. This plays out year after year in human gatherings everywhere.

Yet, Jesus is very clear. Choose Joy. Choose the best part. Choose to maintain joy in service to others. He says that Mary has “chosen” the good part. She has chosen to focus, not on the world and all the “have to” items in it, but on the things of God. 

Do we choose to be Joyful at this time of the year? Do we serve with Joy? Is the money, present, decoration, or photo what we’ll recall? Or will we recall the warmth of a grandparents hand, the hug of a child, the laugh of a newborn, or the unplanned picture of silly happenings? 

This year, choose to be Joyful in all that Christmas has to offer. Start with Joy at Christ’s birth. Each cookie baked, each concert attended, each card addressed – be sure that Joy is present. If it is a requirement, an expectation, or drudgery, reframe it to something Joy-filled and Joyful.

It’s easy to become Martha – worried and troubled about many things. Jesus says that we must choose the good part. We must choose to have a smile in our hearts that matches the one on our lips. When it all becomes more trouble than it’s worth, we need to consider why we’re doing it? Who are we serving? Others…. or our ego? 

Service, absent the indwelling of Joy, is a gift to no one. Joy is a gift received, even while it is being given. Christmas is about choosing the good part – Joy, Peace, Love – while we serve one another.