The time of year has come once more in which we are expected to relax, catch up with friends and family, do some of those things that you had really wanted to do earlier but had been denied you by work of various kinds. You may even have an opportunity, albeit rare, to reflect during this time.
However, I suspect that this is not the reality of your December and January months. For most of us, this time becomes quickly devoted to planning, to the jobs that had been put off and particularly to the monstrous amalgamation of things we have stuffed into the period so that it bulges out like an ill packed sleeping bag. Gatherings, concerts, carols nights and perhaps even some missions. It is all good stuff, but one has to wonder if we might be falling into a subtle trap.
You may ask, if it is a trap, who wants us there? Traps are set by a cunning hunters. Given the success by which this busy time catches us, it seems evident that we are the prey. So who is this hunter and why catch you and me?
Let us jump back to a scene, much like what we know today, but long ago: The guests are coming soon and there is much to do. Martha is cleaning, preparing the food and setting up the required washing basins for the guests. You must not fail to show hospitality, especially when the most important person you are ever going to meet is here. Mary is not helping. She is not cleaning, not preparing food, indeed, not preparing their household to offer hospitality.
She is listening to the important guest, but that should wait until later, after these pressing tasks, should it not? Well, not exactly, the above scene is a snapshot of a first century household in which Mary is making the wiser choices.
The identity of the guest is the pivotal information here. According to Luke 10 verses 38-42 Mary and Martha were hosting Jesus. Now, if Jesus was who he claimed he was, that he is God the Son, it becomes quite obvious that listening to him is more important than all the other things we do.
You may have noticed the present tense used at the end of that last sentence. Listening to God is more important, now as it was then. It is our relationship with God that is necessary, the works that we do have no input comparatively. This brings us back to how our busyness at this time of year can be a trap.
We can easily swamp ourselves during this season with all the good things, while omitting that which is of utmost importance, thus we are in real danger. And who would set this trap against us? One who is filled with spite against the Lord, the defeated one, the Devil.
This trap works in the same way that most of his schemes operate. It is an attempt to pervert what is good (all the good things we are doing) into a danger to our Christian life, being in this case that we neglect our relationship with our loving God.
It may well seem best to free up time, cutting back on the scheduled events. However, remember that these are good things filling up the calendar, removing them may not be necessary. The solution is not so difficult, nor so detrimental. The Devil is our foe because God is our ally, where the good is twisted into traps, God straightens and restores.
The gatherings, concerts, carols nights, missions and more can be done with the right focus. However, we may need to watch eagerly in order to catch the times in which we can listen and reflect on what has been revealed to us through Jesus Christ. This takes practice.
It takes practice to make a habit of making use of the moments in our busy day where we can remember our God and be thankful for all that he offers to us in the coming of Jesus.
Alex Gillespie is an undergraduate student from Wollongong now based in Sydney.
Alex Gillespie's previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/alex-gillespie.html