Late one night, I couldn’t sleep, so I turned pages to look for something Jesus said. I think I was searching for red letters about peace or rest, but the story of Mary and Martha caught my eye: one woman was anxious and busy; the other chose to sit at Jesus’ feet. I read it, told myself to be more like Mary, and eventually feel asleep. A few days later, I came across a different narrative... Martha’s serving and Mary’s at Jesus’ feet again, pouring perfume.
A theme surfaced: Martha's serving in both stories; Mary’s always at the feet of Jesus.
Mary bought this expensive perfume, and instead of using it for herself, she knelt at the feet of Jesus and poured it all out. It seems backwards— Martha was serving— but Mary anointed Jesus’ feet and emptied her bottle of perfume. The fragrant aroma spread throughout the whole house as Mary bent and poured the bottle… everyone around her was affected by her relationship and communion with Jesus. Perhaps Mary knew that pouring out anywhere else but on the feet of Jesus was lesser. To be able to empty herself for others, to be able to love fully and freely, she learned the essential, priceless value of sitting at His feet.
Flip to another Gospel book: Jesus, the incarnate Son of God, traveled to a little village, and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. Can’t you imagine her getting to work, preparing a meal for this traveler?
Meanwhile, her sister, Mary, chose to sit at Jesus’ feet.
I want to say I’m always Mary, but I know that’s not true.
Sometimes we give Martha a bad rap, pegging her as a workaholic people-pleaser. And yet? I am Martha. Maybe you’re Martha sometimes, too. I admire the way she welcomes Jesus and desires to please Him. She asked, “I am left alone. Do You care?”; I empathize with her. As the Bible tells us, though, she became distracted with her preparations and tasks.
When she found Mary listening to Jesus’ words, He comforted and confronted her. It’s essentially an invitation to join her sister at Jesus’ feet. There is always room— plenty of space for you to sit with Jesus and Jesus with you— at His feet.
The story ends there. Strange, right? I want to know what happened next. Did Martha shake her head and return to work? Or did she take a spot on the floor at the King’s feet? As much as I’d like to know the ending, it’s not there. Maybe there isn’t an ending because we get to complete it somehow. No matter what our posture is now, we get to make a choice of heart and response: Martha or Mary?
Today is the third day of Advent. In this season of expectancy and longing, we must prepare room for Christ in our hearts and lives before we prepare anything else (so that nothing becomes a distraction). He is coming! God wants to be with us, and God wants us to be with Him. He is coming!
And when He comes, let us learn from the wise men who traveled to meet the Baby they'd been waiting for and fell to the ground to pour out their perfume. Let us prepare for and welcome Him, like Martha. Let us wait for Him and at His feet, like Mary.
To the Marthas: Set it down, beloved. Whatever might be keeping you (and me) from sitting at His feet— whether it’s the fear of being known or the need to be known, a need to work, or something else— put it on pause, move it to the backburner, let it go. Come! to the One saying, “Dear (your name here), only one thing is necessary.” You and I— we don't want miss Him. Your service and gifts are not overlooked; they have their time and place, surely— but only one thing is imperative: Sit at His feet.
To the Marys: Stay there, pour out, and let yourself receive in turn. Anticipate the arrival of Christ; search for Him everywhere, and see Him in everyone. Serve when you’re called to, and take steps to follow the Shepherd, but run back to His feet. Be quick to look up at Jesus’ face, and don’t be afraid to keep coming to Him. That time is not wasted.
For us all: As we advent and expect, we make room for You, Jesus. May we welcome You to our homes, hearts, lives, and tables... that our greatest desire would be to serve You. Let us not forget what our first act of service should be: to offer our hearts and very lives as we sit at Your feet. As we are filled, let us pour out Your grace and love.
Jesus, that You would come and teach us how to pour out, because You lovingly took on skin in the form of a humble servant as You emptied Yourself to (and for) our brokenness… May we run to You when the sun is rising and when it’s high in the sky and again at dusk. Let no place be coveted over a place at Your feet and no position desired more than that of a teachable, hungry child… that we wouldn’t choose busyness or a comfortable seat over sitting on the floor in Your Presence. Receive our perfume poured out, its scent traveling far and wide and deep and first to You.
Jesus, may our desire to "do" not distract us from Your Spirit. May we be content with a place at your feet, hanging on to every word You say. May every day of our lives be Advent.
Forgive us, Father, when we are distracted by cheaper things and lesser portions. May we choose what is better.
This song just fits as a prayer.
Audrey Assad is one of my favorite artists, and rumor has it she's releasing Christmas songs this year. Just so you know. ;)