Friday, December 26, 2008

A Martha – as well as Merry – Christmas

We’ve just finished a whirlwind two days. We had the chance to visit with friends Christmas Eve morning. After tidying away books, photocopies, and my computer from the kitchen table, it was off to church for 3 hours. I played piano for two hour-long services of Lessons and Carols (best page-turner ever, thanks hon!) This year it was stressful rather than fun. I played through the music only twice since I got home last weekend: every spare moment goes to research and writing, so I didn't have time to get comfortable with the music. I’m a lousy music reader, so I made up stuff where I couldn’t read fast enough… with marginal satisfaction. (Thanks, Laurie, for being a forgiving choir director.)

Our house was full overnight on Christmas Eve: the kids came over after service to eat a casual meal, created as we went along, pulling stuff from the fridge. We laughed and talked and opened Christmas stockings. Jeremy’s girlfriend joined the fun of our first year with married kids – Timothy and Melissa. It snowed a few times during the day, so everyone slept over: filling both guestrooms and Jer and Jono on the two Ikea sofabeds in the LR.

W and I started Christmas Day at 6am. While I peeled potatoes and carrots, W rinsed and stuffed the 22-pound bird, which had swum in the sink overnight in a brine of 1 c. sugar, 1 c. salt. The kids started arriving in the kitchen at 7 for cider, tea, and coffee. By the time everyone was roused and ready to eat at 10, pancakes and breads were ready. Then everyone headed outdoors, the guys to shovel the snowfall off the 100’ driveway, the girls to the back porch to build a snowman with a surprise snow-woman profile on the back side. Carrot nose, stick arms, apple ears, green leaf hair, and pine-cone eyes… it was a 6’ delight, smiling at us all day from outside the dining room doors.

After a few false alarms that parts of the family wouldn’t be able to come down from Canada (snow, and more snow!), everyone turned up in the end – siblings, cousins, parents, and even a four-year-old niece who kept one adult after another busy during the day. (Happily, she wore herself as well as the rest of us out by nightfall.)

Eighteen friends and family thanked God for the food and enjoyed a tender turkey dinner, complete with mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, rotkohl (a German specialty Mom made), veges and salad… topped off with baking, courtesy of the Grandmas and a friend. All the kids helped set up, and Melissa cleared and helped reset for supper. (Marilyn, you would have been SO proud of your daughter!!) Between, one group visited in the LR, another in the kitchen nook, and another bunch played Wii in the guestroom.

W and my brother picked up our daughter Kirsten from the airport and arrived back in time to eat at 7pm in time to open presents. We sang a few carols before the troop marched back out the door, leaving W, K, and me to a quiet house. We finished cleanup, W gave our daughter the Dad-update of his latest gadgets and electronics, and then we went to bed.

I woke in the night thinking of the scripture story of Mary and Martha. Mary remembered to sit at Jesus’ feet. Martha was so busy in the kitchen that she forgot the best – sitting with Jesus. Our annual Christmas tradition is to have various ones read the story of Christ's birth between carols. It gives us time to sit together around the meaning of Christmas. Yesterday we left it too late – everyone streamed out the door with the most important thing left undone.

I’m usually the one who makes space to pray and read scripture. Growing up, I watched my mom do the same, working behind the scenes to feed spirit as well as body. Yesterday, I got distracted by cooking, spur-of-the-moment decisions, and young company. Sure, someone else could have remembered. How I wish they had.

With the opportunity to introduce a new friend to Christ and his birth, I got wrapped up in the kitchen. When I woke with a start at night, it was with joy at having wonderful family time. And great sadness at perhaps having neglected the most important part, like Martha in the gospel story.

Aren't you glad that Christians can serve God without fear? Our God is loving and kind, forgiving our lapses. I’ll be looking for the next opportunity to share Good News, asking him for open eyes, ears, and heart.

Read more:
*So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them ,"Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests." Luke 2:4-14 NIV

*Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come and redeemed his people. He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David (as he said through his holy prophets of long ago), salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us--to show mercy to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant, the oath he swore to our father Abraham: to rescue us from the hand of our enemies, and to enable us to serve him without fear in holiness and righteousness before him all our days." Luke 1:68-75 NIV

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