Christmas is one of my favourite times of the year. Everyone is so joyful! We get excited for tree decorating, Christmas shopping, starting our Christmas baking while playing Christmas carols in the background, and preparing for the many gatherings that are soon to follow. And, whether you’re a last-minute shopper like I am, or one who starts baking in November, we all have our special traditions and ways of doing things.
The family gatherings are my favourite part. I love getting ready and preparing for company. My mother-in-law usually hosts the Harms’s get-together and it’s always a busy day. We arrive mid-afternoon to help prepare the meal, set up tables and all that goes along with hosting. After supper, we have our gift opening with the kids opening their presents first.
For the last few years, the little cousins have drawn names and bought gifts for each other. (I find that they get more from the giving end when they are able to participate in this way.) When they leave to play with their new treasures, the adults have their turn to play. After years of drawing names, we’ve recently, switched things up a bit. We now do a “Grinch Gift Exchange,” during which we watch carefully as people choose wrapped gifts to open and, depending on what’s inside, others plan their “steal” when their turn comes around. The laughter always out-weighs the steals.
After the gifts and laughter have wound down, you see some people heading back to the kitchen for dishes and clean up, while others settle back down into conversation. Soon the night creeps up and we’re saying our goodbyes until next year.
Nights like these seem to fly by so fast that you’re scared to blink.
This fall, when I was attending a youth retreat, my outlook on all this began to change. We were discussing the scripture passage involving Mary and Martha, who responded so differently to their friend Jesus’ visit in Luke 10:38-42.
And I couldn’t help but think about how much this applies to my actions at Christmas gatherings. Like Martha, I’m the one who’s busy in the kitchen, helping to make sure everything is ready and perfect for our guests. I make sure we have enough gravy and potatoes. Then there’s the inevitable “Is the dessert ready?” “Oh wait, did we put out napkins?” “Do you think this gravy tastes all right?” That’s followed by cleaning up afterwards so people have room to move, play games and visit.
As I reflected on that, I wondered if all this rushing about is the reason why these times together feel so short. I honestly struggle to let my Mary out at such events. And if I do sit down and talk, I often feel guilty about it afterwards.
But I shouldn’t. Because even Jesus says that it’s okay for us to be Mary, even if it’s just for part of the night. Women like me need to be able to embrace a little of both Mary and Martha in our lives. It’s not like Jesus is telling us to be Mary all of the time, or Martha for that matter. But that there’s a time and place for both.
My goal this year is to let my Mary side out more. My Martha side can go crazy at the beginning of the evening, but afterwards she needs to step aside so my Mary can have a chance to visit, relax and just enjoy the more peaceful moments.
After all, our family isn’t always around when we decide we have time to relax. We need to take the time while we have it.
Mel Harms is the Mennonite Church Saskatchewan representative on the Mennonite Women Canada board.