I know it is the time for the all important holidays. You know the ones I’m talking about. Thanksgiving and Christmas, to mention the two that stand out in my mind. I think of those holidays fondly for many reasons. One of the most important for me is the fact that it certainly is important that I give thanks for my life and loves and that Christmas celebrates the birth of Christ.
Those things not withstanding, another thought that is brought to mind quickly is the food. I remember the large dinners that we had as a youngster. Those were the ones that mom and helpers cooked each holiday to celebrate the day. At least I think it was to celebrate the day. I remember the time spent in preparing the meals and the aches and pains mom complained about in those preparations.
Sounds a little like the Martha and Mary story that Jesus had to tell us about them in Luke. My take on those particular verses (Luke 10:38-42) is that though Martha had good intentions, she was trying to be kind to Jesus in her way. Therein may lie the problem. Jesus needed to be heard but also some quiet I suspect, since he would soon go to Jerusalem and to his death. I believe he stopped in Bethany that day to rest and ponder what lay ahead for him. He must have needed to get away from the well-meaning crowds and to not have people make a fuss about him.
But poor Martha didn’t understand that at this time in the life of Jesus, he really didn’t need to be cooked and care for. He needed to meld with God and with his surroundings. Did Mary understand? Jesus seems to say that she did.
I think of my mother as being Martha. Bless her hardworking, constantly caring and soul-bearing love. She needed to cook and present a huge meal, superb in many ways for her guests, just like Martha. And I loved every little morsel that I consumed of those marvelous meals, never realizing how much preparation and work went into making those meals.
I talk about these holiday dinners now because they are but a memory. Our family, like many, is dispersed over many miles, and holidays are celebrated whenever we find ourselves in one place. We might be celebrating Christmas in June and Thanksgiving… well, most anytime.
And now mother has come of age and realized that all that big meal preparation and service was wonderful at the time — but I think she realizes that now the fact that the family and friends are gathered together to celebrate and enjoy is much more important than the meal. I hope that is what she is thinking now as she informs us we are headed for the big cafeteria in the mall.
I was certainly taken a bit aback when I first heard her tell us she didn’t plan our holiday dinner but there were certainly many other choices of places we would be going for our dinners. I then realized what Christ was saying to Martha. I believe Jesus meant for us to appreciate one another when we are together. If it is family, love and enjoy the time with them. If is it friends, cherish that relationship and enjoy the time together.
In our family the time of large well-planned meals made by mother’s hands is gone. I believe I was offended at first because of my expectations. After all, wasn’t that what mothers did on holidays?
You see, if you look real close to that last statement, my own thoughts of what I expected are projected on the circumstances. I expected a large meal prepared for me by my mother. My mother’s expectations did not encompass those of mine.
This may be where Martha misunderstood. She was doing her thing for Jesus because she expected that it was the “right” way to do things when you had guests. It is projection of a kind. Martha truly believed she was being kind, but she needed to do it in her way. How often do I want to do for others in my own way? How is it that I expect others to appreciate what I want more than what they may want?
Martha’s heart and mine are surely in the right place — but just as Martha wanted to celebrate Christ in her way, so I thought my mother should appreciate cooking a holiday meal for me. My expectations — as were Martha’s, though well-intentioned — were simply that: Mine alone.
Being truly kind and wanting to do what is better in the spirit of love, I had overlooked what truly my mother may have needed and it certainly wasn’t to continue cooking over that hot stove to provide me with a meal that I could certainly do without. Or more accurately, less concentration on that meal taught me that the true meaning of friends and family was not about food but about accepting what they wanted from me and that was my time — not my mothers cooking.
I love my mother dearly. Martha loved Jesus deeply. In Martha’s case she forgot to stop and think about what Jesus could really use that day. Mary remembered and sat at Jesus’ feet. I on a much different level realized that all the preparation of large meals was not at all about the meals but about the belief that it was necessary to keep us together. She now needs us to visit and care and love her through sitting at her table and enjoying her company.
Time at the table is limited now, and we have learned that it is not about where the table is or what is on the table, but what is being shared between all that are at the table. We have learned that the importance of knowing what each needs from the other is much more important than any meal that anyone can set before us. We know that reaching out to one another as people and in Christ’s love, we will not be offended by the changing times but realize that each are appreciated. So now we celebrate Thanksgiving just most anytime and certainly Christmas is celebrated in July, August, or any other month that we can sit at the table — any table — to celebrate love.
Ordained in August 2006, Rev. Suzie Chamness served as Senior Pastor of Spirit of Life MCC of New Port Richey, Fla., beginning in 2009, having served as volunteer clergy for the congregational care ministry at King of Peace MCC and as chaplain at Bon Secours Maria Manor senior care facility, both in St. Petersburg, Fla. In June 2006 she earned a masters of divinity degree from the Florida Center for Theological Studies in Miami, followed by a doctorate in ministry from Andersonville Theological Seminary.