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A Mary Christmas

November 27, 2016
Rev. Terry Martinson
Luke 10:38-42


THEME: The true joy of Christmas comes from standing in the presence of the Lord.


  • The sermon title is not misspelled… The tile is not A Merry Christmas… the title is A Mary Christmas… M-a-r-y.
  • I love the story of Mary and Martha… it’s not a Christmas story, but with very little imagination it could be.
    • I like the story of Mary and Martha because it’s easy to personify… it’s easy to identify family members, friends, and even ourselves as either being like Mary or Martha or maybe somewhere in between.
    • As we move through the season of Advent, our actions identify us as either a “Mary” or a “Martha.”



  • Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem… to the cross… when he stopped in the small village of Bethany at the home of Mary and Martha. Jesus was seeking a bit of rest… a few hours of retreat… a little peace and quiet.
  • Martha welcomed Jesus into their home and immediately ran to the kitchen to polish the silverware, iron a tablecloth, get out the good candlesticks, put a roast in the oven, peel the potatoes, frost a cake, and crank out some homemade ice cream… the Bible doesn’t really tell us that she did any of these things, but it does say that she was distracted by all the things she had to do.
  • Martha was the older sister… the home she shared with Mary was probably in her name… she felt the responsibility of being the homeowner – cooking, cleaning, and taking care of business.
  • Martha was a perfectionist – she wanted everything to be “just so”
    • She was a “worrier” and was always concerned about what other people might think or say.
    • Some people, like Martha, worry so much that they can wear out a day before it even gets here.
  • Martha worked so hard that she could not enjoy Jesus’ visit.
    • While Martha scurried about the kitchen, Mary sat at the feet of Jesus listening quietly and intently to everything he was saying as he chatted with his disciples… Mary didn’t miss a word.
    • After a while the kitchen door was thrown open and Martha stood in the doorway with her hands on her hips… instead of saying, “Does anybody need to wash up… dinner is almost ready,” Martha glared at Jesus and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
    • The look on the Master’s face must have registered his surprise, but he responded calmly, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”  (Luke 10:41-42)
    • “Martha, come and sit down.”
  • Martha was not a bad person… what she did was good and somewhat important… but what Mary did was better… spending time with the Lord is better than spending time for the Lord, but be assured that God needs and loves both the “Marthas” and the “Marys” of this world.
    • Martha focused on the tasks at hand, the work that needed to be done… she’s the type of person who might stay home from church to rake the yard or make a pie.
    • Mary focused on Jesus… for Mary, sitting at the feet of the Master had more lasting value than knocking yourself out in the kitchen.
    • It was a matter of priorities.
  • According to an old legend, when the Magi were following the Star of Bethlehem, they came to the house of a certain woman. They said to her, “Come with us! We have seen his star in the east and we are going to worship him.” // “Oh!,” she said, “I would love to go. I have heard that he would be coming one day and I have been so looking forward to it. But I can’t come now. I must set my house in order, then I will follow you and find him.” // But her work was never done. The wisemen were out of sight, the star shone no more in the heavens, and she never did see the baby Jesus.  (DI – Advent – p. 26)



  • It wasn’t Advent when Jesus stopped at the home of Mary and Martha, but I can only guess that if it had been Advent, Martha would have been up to her ears in cookie baking, tree decorating, sending out the cards, wrapping the gifts, and worrying about what she might have forgotten or if the weather might be so bad on Christmas day that the ferry wouldn’t be running.
  • Many Christians are like Martha, especially during the days and weeks leading to Christmas… they are so wrapped up in everything that has to be done that they miss the beauty of the Advent season and the birth of the Savior.
  • The true joy of Christmas comes from standing in the presence of the Lord!
    • What do we want to teach our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren about Christmas?
    • Do we want to teach them that Christmas is busy or do we want to teach them that Christmas is peace and love and joy?
    • Our actions teach the children so much about Christmas… Really think about that for a moment: What do our actions teach children about Christmas?
    • Christmas Eve was a hectic day. The little girl was so excited she could hardly contain herself… Her father was worried with bundles, burdens and bills… Mom’s nerves were at the breaking point as she tried to make sure everything was cooked, wrapped, cleaned and ready… The little girl seemed to be in the way no matter where she went and the confusion of the day mixed her up a bit…. As usual, she ended her bedtime prayers with the Lord’s Prayer, only this time she was heard to say, “Forgive us our Christmas, as we forgive those who Christmas against us.”  (DI – Advent – p. 59)
    • What does the way you “Christmas” teach the children?
  • Let me share with you an eight year old boy’s description of his father’s Christmas celebration:


Dad had just finished up the Christmas lights. Dad likes to put up the Christmas lights. He puts them all over the house. He puts them all over the yard, too. He puts them in the trees and puts lighted decorations on the lawn. He says we have MORE lights than anybody else in town. // Dad likes to show everybody the lights. As soon as he gets home from work, he turns them on. He watches all night long as people drive by to admire them. He goes out and he talks to the people who stop and shows them how he did it and tells them how much money he spends on them. I guess it’s a pretty important job showing people all these lights. Dad even had to miss my Christmas program at the church last year so he could show people the lights. // I wish someone could help my dad with the lights. It’s a really hard job. When he works on them, he gets mad and yells and swears a lot. He’s too busy with the lights to do much with me and Mom. Mom says he loves us a lot, but I think he might love his lights more. // I don’t think I’m going to have Christmas lights when I grow up. I think they’re pretty, but I just don’t think I will. I think I’d rather do other things. (PSF #86 – p. 8)



  • Advent can be either a season of joyful anticipation or great anxiety… if you are like Martha, it is a season of anxiety… if you are like Mary, Advent is a season of anticipation.
  • Do not be like Martha – so busy that you miss the Messiah… do not be distracted from spending time with the Lord.
  • Choose the better part… choose to be like Mary… seek the presence of the Lord and soak it all in, for the true joy of Christmas comes from standing in the presence of the Lord.
  • Advent is a season of preparation… are you preparing for Jesus like Martha or like Mary?
  • If you are like Martha, on Christmas Day you may find yourself saying, “I got everything done, but there is one thing missing – Jesus Christ! I have left him behind. I have let him slip away. And the weariness of the season has robbed my heart of the joy of Christmas.”
  • May you have a MARY – M-A-R-Y Christmas.


Sermon Seeds

  • Daily Study Bible by William Barclay – Luke 10:38-42
  • Will You Have A Mary Or A Martha Christmas? – a sermon by Pastor Griffith
  • A pastoral letter by Rev. Melvin Bell of Simpson Memorial UMC – 12-1-96
  • The Pastor’s Story File
  • Dynamic Illustrations

Worship Bulletin