Third Friday of Advent: Both Mary and Martha

By Mollie Little

Advent Devotional | December 20, 2019

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

—Luke 10:38-42 (Read Luke 10)

The day I was asked to write for this year's Advent devotional about hospitality, I found an infestation of bedbugs in my own bed.  

Let me repeat that. Bedbugs. In my own bed! 

Surely, finding an infestation of bedbugs disqualifies me from offering hospitality, or writing anything about the subject. 

But I didn’t have time to think about that. 

We were expecting overnight guests. Friends would be arriving in just a few days.

Some background: 

A few months earlier, the school year had started with a rush of extra activities. Although I had been covered with mosquito bites all summer, and the welts were strangely persisting, there was little margin in my life. When my schedule gets tight, some things go unattended.

I didn’t want it to be my faith, so I met with Jesus in the midst of neglected piles and papers, scratching a few fresh marks on my skin every day. I do believe God has called me to be a wife, mother, and homemaker, and I want my home to be used in loving service for His Kingdom purposes. But cleaning sometimes has to be postponed.

Didn’t Jesus say that Mary had chosen the better part?

Still, I thought this might be hard to explain to my friends who were coming to visit. I called them, embarrassed, and offered to find another place for them to lodge. 

But they wanted to stay with us, despite the potential risk.

It was time for Martha to get to work.

We cleaned thoroughly, and I called the exterminator. Although the bedbugs were thankfully confined to my own bedroom, there were so many—so boldly living under my own nose—that I scratched my head (and every other part of my body) at how this could have happened. My body had been alerting me for weeks that there was a problem. How could I have missed it?

There was just always so much to do. So I tried to love my kids and husband well, look out for my neighbors, nourish my spirit, and keep up with the laundry and the cooking. Like Mary, I tried to choose Jesus, but despite the appearance of my house, sometimes I felt more like Martha. Distracted by many, many things.

My friends visited, and I offered my heart and my home to them. 

They knew my mess, they saw my welts, and they still chose to accept our hospitality. 

And in our rich and nourishing visit, I felt the hospitality of my friends return to me.  

I could have saved face by cancelling our visit and hiding the reasons, but I would have missed the joy of being truly known, and loved anyway. In their God-given grace, my friends’ love reminded me that we can't hide anything from Jesus. He knows us to our very depths. He invites us to stop pretending, to take off our masks, to acknowledge that we fall far short of our ideals.  

Jesus stepped down out of perfect glory to be born in inglorious and humble circumstances, to dwell with us in the messy reality of our lives. 

Will we accept His invitation to do the same with others?

—Mollie Little, CCO Campus Ministry Staff at Allegheny College