Monday, December 08, 2008

Advent Sermon 12/7/08 When Jesus Comes to Town Part One: "Preparing Our Home for Christmas"

“Preparing Our Home for Christmas”

Luke 10:38-42

Everyone knows the song, “Santa Claus is coming to Town.” In the song, we are given certain instructions on how to prepare ourselves for Santa’s arrival. We are told that Santa is making a list, checking it twice and he is going to find out who is naughty or nice. Therefore, we have to make sure not to pout, or cry and that we better be good for goodness sake.

As we gather together to worship during this season, we are preparing, not for Santa’s arrival, but for the arrival of Jesus. Over the remaining Sundays in Advent, I want to talk about how we prepare for Jesus coming to town. Today I want to talk about getting our Home ready for Jesus to come.

I am sure if you are like Melanie and I, you take time to prepare your house for Christmas. This year, we began the process of preparing our home the weekend before Thanksgiving. On Friday, I got all the Christmas stuff down from the attic. On Saturday morning we put the tree up and then we made home aid soup and invited my parents over. After we ate soup, Melanie made chocolate chip cookies. Melanie and mom put the ornaments on the tree while Dad and I watched Tennessee play football.

As great as that day was and as fun as it is to fix your home up for Christmas, there is something that we, as Christians, should be more excited about preparing for the coming of Jesus.

In Luke’s gospel, we find a story of Jesus coming to visit Martha and Mary. The text is found in Luke 10:38-42. It says,

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet listening to what he said. But 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 few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her."

This is a short story, but it has so much stuff in it. In this passage, Jesus is traveling towards Jerusalem and stops by to visit a lady named Martha. She has a sister named Mary. Luke tells us first that Mary is sitting at the Lord’s feet, listening to him. Luke tells us that Martha had a lot of tasks to do and was distracted. The TNIV says she was distracted by all the preparations she had to do.

We read that Martha was a little upset because she sees her sister listening to Jesus, but not making preparation for him. In other words, she is not being hospitable. Martha then points this problem out to Jesus. Jesus then does something the reader should not expect. He tells Martha that Mary is actually doing what is correct while Martha is distracted and worried about many things. He tells her that only one thing is necessary and Mary is doing it.

Honestly, I struggle some with the passage because on face value, it appears that Jesus is rewarding laziness. But, if we take a closer look, I think you will find that Jesus actually does get it. I had never noticed this before, but look at how Luke frames this story. Before Jesus says a word, notice that Luke tells us “Martha was distracted by all the preparations.”

Oftentimes we think that we are distracted from Jesus at Christmas because we get so busy and forget, but I think it is more than that. Melanie and I have some shows that we always watch each week. One of the shows that she likes and somehow got me hooked on is Samantha Who. In the episode just before Thanksgiving, Samantha’s best friend Dena is having relationship problems with her boyfriend. There relationship had begun well, but as of late; he was working all of the time. They break up and then Dena’s boyfriend finds her in the movie theater to explain his actions.

He tells her that, quote, “I have not been neglecting you, I have just been taking you for granted.” In the show, he explains that this is a good thing because he feels comfortable enough with her to take her for granted. I asked Melanie If I could use that excuse and she said no. Oh well.

I think too often we take Jesus for granted and therefore, we become distracted by all of the other holiday things just like we take Jesus for granted with other things most all of the other time as well. We take it for granted that Jesus will be there for us. Therefore, Jesus is not our top priority. One of the things Jesus is telling us through this story is that we ought to stop taking Jesus for granted because sitting at his feet and listening to him is vital during Christmas and any other time of the year.

Oftentimes when we look at this story we say that this is a story about doing verses being. We read this story and conclude that we must spend time with Jesus before we can serve Jesus. I think this is part of the story, but there is more to it than meets the eye.

To understand the importance of where this passage is located can help us better understand the message that Luke wants us to get from the passage. In this chapter, Jesus has already sent out seventy of his followers in hopes that when they arrive, people will be hospitable to them. If they don’t welcome them, they are in essence rejecting God. Then Jesus tells the story of the Good Samaritan who showed hospitality to the injured man. Now Jesus tells a story of Martha, who is busy in preparation for Jesus. She is doing what she is supposed to and being hospitable to Jesus. The way the story is set up, Martha would be the one who is doing what she is supposed to do and following through to be a good host.

It is also helpful to understand what Mary is actually doing and why Martha is actually so upset about. Mary is sitting at the feet of Jesus listening to him. This does not mean that she was just sitting at his feet like a puppy dog, she was listening to him and learning. This is what a student would do if a rabbi was teaching. They would say they “sat at ones” feet. Mary was actually acting as one of Jesus’ male disciples and learning to follow him.

The reason Martha was so upset was because Mary was acting outside of her role as a female. Women would have been making all the preparations while the men listened to Jesus teach. Mary was acting outside her role as a female, thus upsetting Jesus.

If we put all of this together, Jesus wants our hospitably to lead to discipleship. In other words, inviting someone in and showing hospitality should then lead to us growing closer to God.

Jesus says that in the end, only one thing is necessary. This does not mean that all the work Martha is doing is not important. After all, someone has to do it. Jesus just said that Mary was doing the one that that was necessary.

This Christmas season, we will all be very busy celebrating Christmas. We will all work hard to decorate our homes, buy gifts, make cookies, and have family parties. These are all good things. They are all important, but remember that only one things necessary and that is being at the feet of Jesus and listening to him.

My challenge this advent and Christmas season is for you and your family to find ways to share the story of Jesus and to make this Christmas season about becoming a better follower of Jesus. I believe one of the best things about advent is that it gives us practice for the rest of the year. If we can find a way to sit at the feet of Jesus during Advent, hopefully we can do it year round.

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