So, last week, we spent some time in the home of Mary and Martha (read all about it here!), and we were able to see that the two sisters had very different to-do lists on their minds.
The heart of that article was looking at the “changeables” of life- specifically the ever-changing standard of perfection we are so apt to hold ourselves to.
I want to go deeper this week.
Travel back with me to Mary and Martha’s house.
Martha has just urged Jesus to push Mary onto her feet, yet, in this story’s plot twist, Jesus chooses to focus on Martha instead. His reply is, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things.”
What does it mean to be troubled?
I think that this goes deeper than distracted, and it certainly hits me in a different way.
It is one thing to be distracted by material things, but it is another beast entirely to be troubled by heart issues.
Have you ever tried to hold a party or host guests when your head and heart were miles away? When you just really weren’t in it?
I often focus on how things used to be, the old standard of normal, around the holidays. I can look back on past Christmases and think how they are different.
Grief, physical pain, financial woes, mental illness, disappointments, changes in routine, and broken relationships fester in our hearts during the holidays, and we can’t help but focus on the losses we’ve mounted in the past year.
Life does not stop, simply because of the holidays. Rather, life, with all of its bumps and bruises seems to be felt most acutely during Christmas.
For so long, I thought that God could see my pain as some far-off observer. However, the Christmas story in its entirety shows that belief to be false.
God is not some far off witness to our pain because He came near. God, sharing our human flesh, moved in right next door, and one of the reasons He came was so that we could understand that He knows intimately our pain- the gut-wrenching hardship that we all feel in the face of death, grief, pain, suffering, and change.
Allow me to explain.
Grieving a loss this year? Jesus lost His father, Joseph. Don’t you know He understood what it felt like to look down the table and only notice the absence of one, rather than the presence of others?
Feel like an outcast in your family? Jesus’ own mother and brothers thought he was insane when He proclaimed that He was the One True God and even tried to get Him to shut His mouth.
Feeling betrayed by someone you were close to? One of Jesus’ best friends handed Him over to death.
Feeling crippling physical pain this Christmas? Jesus was nailed to a cross to die.
Feeling financial loss? The Son of God was homeless for different seasons in His life.
Feeling like this Christmas is just different because you can’t spend it with the ones you love? Jesus spent holidays and much of His life far away from His family with His disciples.
Feeling a loss of joy because of the future’s uncertainty? Jesus was distressed and troubled by what He had ahead, too (take a look at Luke 12:50).
Feeling disappointed? Jesus was left alone and denied three times by His best friend within earshot.
Feeling misunderstood by those your love? Nobody understood what Jesus really meant when He proclaimed that He would die and be raised.
Feeling abandoned by God? Jesus cried out, as He hung bloodied, beaten, scorned, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?”
So you can bet that when Jesus looked deep into Martha’s eyes, as He looks deep into our eyes this Christmas, he knew what it was like to be troubled. He understood then, and He understands now.
The immovability and unchanging nature of the heart of Christmas is what we can cling to in the midst of the life changes that we face annually, weekly, yearly, daily. We can hold tight to the fact that the very meaning of Christmas is that He is here.
In your hardship, He is here.
When you look down the table and see that that chair is empty, He is here.
When tempers flare and feelings are hurt on a day that should be about happiness and fellowship, He is here.
When your Christmas looks different because of changes in your life, He is here.
When you look in your bank account and feel the weight of what will be coming in January, He is here.
When you are troubled, He. Is. Here.
Change, grief, tears, emotion, empty chairs at Christmas, ornaments that remind you of happier times, the recipe your loved one adored so you cook, even though they, for whatever reason, are not there- these wounds hurt. And they add up.
The sum of our losses varies each year, but the number always seems to be counted larger at Christmas.
Yet, as Jesus lovingly reminds us, there remains that “good part- that which cannot be taken away.” Jesus will never be a loss in your category.
This is the Christmas story: For God so loved the world that He came alongside of us and walks with us, whether it’s Christmas morning or just a mundane Tuesday. His presence remains.
He was here on Earth 2000 years ago, and we can welcome Him into our living room this season, as well.
Cling. Lean in. Not matter who of your family and friends is not present, He is.
I hope you and your family have a Merry Christmas!