Letter to a Young Wife at Christmas
Dear sister, I truly hope that your Christmas season has been filled with light and joy and a sense of hopeful anticipation. But I’m writing this letter because I know that all too often it’s not, at least not completely. I don’t know your exact situation, and maybe not everything I have to say is true for you, but I hope something resonates.
I wonder if you’re feeling overwhelmed. So many things to do. There are Christmas cards to send, and the more that show up in your mailbox the more you have to do. There are cookies to bake – maybe you signed up to be part of that cookie exchange and now you have to get them done, or maybe you just don’t feel like Christmas until they’re baked. There are presents to buy, presents for your mother and mother-in-law, your boss, your best friend, and who knows what to get your father, let alone your father-in-law? You really want to get your husband something he’ll love, to show him how much you adore him, but what does an adult man really need? If you have kids, you’re trying to figure out how not to spoil them, but you don’t want your mom to be the only one to get them fun presents, but you also want to keep it within a reasonable budget. So you’re watching the sales, but it seems like there are more each year. And you still haven’t gotten to planning the dishes you’re expected to bring for family Christmas.
This all sounds exhausting, and I’m just the one writing about it. Do you feel disheartened? Do you wonder if anyone will even notice all the work you’re putting in? This is the part of the Hallmark movie where the lead runs away and someone chases her down to remind her that she’s loved, right? But that’s not happening.
Meanwhile, there are all the fun things you could be doing – the ice skating rink and the Christmas shows and the special flavors at Starbucks and Winter Wonderland Parade, and there just isn’t time to do it all. Then there are the fun things you want to do but can’t. Maybe you didn’t get invited out with that one group of ladies and you’re wondering why. Maybe you’re grieving because someone who was always there at Christmas when you were young is gone now. You see other people’s posts on social media and it feels like other people are having fun that you’re not having.
Is any of this true for you? Does it feel a little like you want the Christmas spirit but could really do without the Christmas work and the Christmas pressure and the Christmas FOMO?
Can I just ask – who told you that Christmas had to be this way? Who said you have to do all the things? Would someone love you less if you didn’t get all the cookies baked? Would Christmas be ruined if you just got fewer gifts for the kids? What would happen if you just brought a simpler dish to the family Christmas? (Actually, that one may be harder to get away with, depending on your relations). But I think a story from the Bible actually has something to say about whether or not you have to do all the things.
The story is about two sisters. Both loved their Lord. Both wanted to do what was best for the people around them. Both were motivated by a strong desire to serve God. When Jesus and his disciples came over one day, one of the sisters, Martha, was doing all the things. She was busy preparing the meal and cleaning the house and getting everything ready. It was exhausting. Meanwhile, her sister Mary was sitting with the disciples listening to Jesus talk. Both were giving to Jesus out of their hearts of faith – Martha was giving her service, Mary was giving her attention. Both were good.
When the pressure finally hit boiling point for Martha, she did what anyone would want to do. She marched in, confronted the problem. “Jesus,” she said, “I’ve been doing all the work of preparing the meal, while Mary isn’t helping at all. Would you please tell Mary to get up and come in here and help?”
Jesus did not respond the way Martha hoped or expected. He wasn’t unkind. He called her by name (itself a beautiful kindness in a culture where men didn’t call unrelated women by name). He acknowledged her stress. “You are worried about a great many things.” But he reminded her that Mary was choosing something even better: she was filling up on the Words of Life that only come from the Author of Life himself. He was, in essence, reminding Martha that the food would be fine. The cleaning could wait. There are more important things.
This was permission to slow down. Permission to spend time hearing that salvation is real, that God truly loves his people, that the needs of this life are temporary, but the hope Jesus gives is eternal.
Can I give you that permission today?
As Jesus said, Mary “chose the better thing.” I want to encourage you to do the same. I’m not saying you shouldn’t get any of the cookies done. I’m not suggesting you just check out on Christmas preparations. I think you’ll find lots of joy if you choose a few meaningful tasks to throw yourself into.
But I want to give you permission to take a deep breath, take a break, and spend some time at Jesus’ feet. Let me give you a little step by step idea for how to do that.
There’s this old Christian practice called lectio divina. It means “divine reading,” and it’s a simple practice for hearing God speak through his Word. Christians started this back in the 4th or 5th century. The idea is to read one section of Scripture three times in one sitting, slowly and attentively, and each reading has a target: Head, Heart, and Habit.
When you read the first time, you pay attention to words and phrases that jump off the page and make you think. Take a few moments to ponder their meaning. When you read the second time, you pay attention to what is happening in your heart. Let yourself feel how God is pulling at your heart strings as he speaks through his word. What is the Holy Spirit stirring in you as you read? When you read the third time, you contemplate what you are feeling motivated to do differently. What changes does it inspire, what action do you want to take, what small shift feels like the natural response?
Can you take twenty minutes to open your Bible to the Christmas story in Luke 2 and just do a little lectio divina? Even if you have to fit each reading between batches of cookies?
I know I can’t fully see inside your head and heart and all the things Christmas stirs up for you this year. But I hope this letter has helped you feel heard, and given you a little permission to choose the better thing. Christmas will still come, Jesus was still born, and God still loves you and your family. Go listen to him, and find a little bit of the Christmas spirit as you do so.