So we start the holiday season. It is our pleasure. Today is the day of guest and you know, one of the things that I know that has been very special to me is when I get an opportunity to minister with my family and for the last year I have, I’ve been able to minister and be on the team with my son in law. Many of you don’t know, many of you do know that pastor Archie is also part of my family and it’s an honor to minister and to do God’s work with your family. Today we have a guest speaker who is also family and today our worship leader Aaron Huffstetler. We’ve invited his father Bob to come and speak to us today. Pastor Bob has been with the salvation army for many decades as a pastor and in the ranks raised up to the ranks of what that is in success in salvation army, which is one of the greatest ministries in the world to provide those in need and those that are forgotten, those that are left. He’s also an award winning author and he is a church planter. So it is a great pleasure, which give a point. Welcome to pastor Bob Hostetler. Come and share your heart with this pastor
well thank you all. It’s a pleasure and a privilege to be here. Thank you to pastor Greg and and uh, pastor Cal and pastor Archie and all the other folks in this church for allowing me this privilege. It’s an honor. A survey was conducted some years ago during this time of year, the holiday season when we’re all starting to think about cards, to address, gifts to buy and trips to make and decorations to put up and meals to prepare and parties to attend and so on. And not surprisingly, the survey indicated that 80% of the families interviewed, experienced stress, heightened stress during the holiday season, 83% experienced difficulties meeting the extra expenditures that come with Thanksgiving and Christmas and over 50% of the mothers interviewed felt used by husbands, children, and other family when the cooking and cleaning and the job of generally making sure that everyone has a good time is left to them and them alone with little support, especially during football games. So are you stressed yet? If not, give me just a few more minutes.
Seriously. Our task here this morning, this Sunday after Thanksgiving is to help everyone here avoid holiday stress this year because you see what so often happens around this of year is that Thanksgiving comes and we know we ought to be thankful. We really, really, we are thankful, but there’s so much work hanging over our heads that we have to hurry up with the [inaudible] things so that we can get on with the [inaudible] Christmas thing. We ended up spreading ourselves so thin and getting so stressed out often that two of the most spiritually meaningful spiritually important holidays in the year, Thanksgiving and Christmas Wiz, right on by leaving us feeling exhausted and cheated and impoverished rather than enriched and drawn closer to God.
But I hope and pray this year, not again, not you, not me. So to help us focus on reducing the stress that so often comes with the holiday season. We’re going to turn to the Bible God’s word and the 10th chapter of Luke verses 38 to 42 because I believe we can learn from this short passage in the third book of the new Testament, a few very important things to help us avoid holiday stress this year, so let’s discover it together. It says this, 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 only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better and it will not be taken away from her. Now, that’s a familiar passage to many of us here, but I’ve found that God uses even the most familiar parts of his word to teach me new things just about every time I open it. Some of us have found in this passage a reminder that whatever else made need doing day by day by time spent with Jesus is important, crucial of first priority. And a lot of people miss the counter cultural message that Luke’s first readers in the first century could not have missed. You see, in first century Judaism, a rabbi like Jesus would assemble a school of town Nadeem or disciples or students like Peter and James and John and the others, and those students would all [inaudible] be male. For a woman like Mary to sit at a rabbi’s feet with the men, that would have been scandalous and for the rabbi to allow such a thing. Well that just wasn’t done. And that may have been at least partly why Martha felt compelled to eventually interrupt the proceedings because her own sister in her own home was making everyone, except apparently Jesus himself uncomfortable by placing herself on a par with the men who were Jesus’ disciples.
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So there was a whole lot going on in that house when Marfa came in and said, hold up. Yeah. And I’m guessing that many of us identify at least somewhat with Martha in this depiction, especially if you’ve ever had to do a group project like in school. Wasn’t that the worst? For some of us it was because there were always those students who didn’t [inaudible] care who didn’t need the grade or were just plain lazy. But you, you needed the grade either to pass the course or just because couldn’t, you couldn’t envision getting anything below an a. So you ended up doing your work and their work as well. Can I get a witness? Okay. The ones who didn’t say a men, you know which ones they were back in school. Yeah, we just found you out. So you got to feel for Martha and her preparations were all probably really good stuff, you know? Uh, making beds, sweeping floors, putting some bread in the oven, maybe spraying around a little breeze. Good stuff, nice stuff, but not necessary stuff. Of course, at points like this [inaudible] in stories like this, my wife, the lovely Robin who sitting right over there would say something to me like, Oh no. Well, if the house was a mess, it wouldn’t be you. They’d be calling a terrible housekeeper. Now, would it? It wouldn’t reflect on you, would it? People expect you to be a slob.
Okay. She doesn’t sound like that always. But all I’m saying is what Jesus said to Marsha. Only one thing is needed or as the NASB version of the Bible has it, only one thing isn’t necessary. So if you want to reduce stress this holiday season, choose one necessary thing. But Bob, you might say you don’t understand. You’re a writer and a preacher. How could you understand my life, what I’ve got going on? I mean, you have no worries, no problems. Your life is perfect. As my son Aaron, who led worship this morning, told his fourth grade teacher on career day one year, my dad doesn’t have a job. He just sits and plays on the computer all day.
Well, what goes around comes around because that’s pretty much all Aaron does in his job anymore. But seriously, you might say you can’t possibly understand. All I’ve got going on from the office Christmas party to the family gift exchange, the kids Christmas concerts, baking for this and that. Not to mention traveling to the inlaws on Christmas Eve and I think that pain in my chest is coming back and you may be right. You may have way too much going on. There may be few people, if any, who can understand truly, but let me return you to verse 40 in that passage we just read. Remember Mary was sitting at Jesus’ feet, basking in his presence, absorbing his words, his teaching, but Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to Jesus and asked, Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself?
Tell her to help me. Now, if you were to look back at verse 38 you’ll see that apparently this whole thing was all Martha’s idea from the get go. It begins this passage by saying, Martha opened her home to Jesus. She was probably the elder sister, maybe a widowed elder sister. It was probably her house to begin with and Mary was the baby in the family living with an older sister. Anybody know what that family dynamic feels like? No, apparently it’s just me, but it’s not hard to read between the lines in this passage. It looks like Marfa just wanted everything to be perfect. It’s so easy to want our Christmas to be perfect. You know, perfect decorations, perfect atmosphere, perfect gifts, perfect smells, perfect meals, perfect parties, perfect outfits, perfect everything and we can so easily ended up like Martha banging around in the kitchen and chill.
We’ve headed up to here and then cutting loose on somebody we love. Don’t you care like all of God’s word. There’s so much authenticity and realism in this passage. You know that Mary was right there in the room, right when Martha came in and said to Jesus, tell her to help me. But Martha doesn’t talk to Mary. She complains about Mary to Jesus. Can anyone say passive aggressive? I think that’s what we’re seeing here. Not only that, but here she is having opened her home because she wants to honor Jesus probably. And she ends up bossing him around. She calls him Lord and then he goes on to tell him what he should do. There’s a whole sermon just in that.
Not only that, but all her efforts to produce the perfect event resulted in her own stress and anger spoiling it. Hmm. That’s all right there just in five verses, it’s all in there. There’s a scene in the Tyler Perry movie. Why did I get married in which Patty, the character played by Janet Jackson, breaks down in her husband’s arm grieving for the child she lost and blames herself for, and she says something like, perfect, Patty can be perfect anymore. It’s a moving scene and it seems plain as data everyone but perfect Patty, that she really never was perfect and they’re holding on to that pursuit of perfection was eating her up. So may I say to you in Jesus name this Christmas doesn’t have to be perfect. Can I get you to say it with me? Say with me, it doesn’t have to be perfect. Will you do that? Just those words. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Try it again. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Louder this time. Consider it free counseling. It doesn’t have to be perfect. You know there are people who get paid $100 an hour for what we just com accomplished in 30 seconds. If you want to reduce stress this Christmas, you’re going to have to give up the pursuit of perfection
and choose one necessary thing. What is it you want out of this Christmas season, this coming month, the next 25 days or so? What is absolutely necessary from your point of view? Jesus said to Martha, you’re worried and bothered about so many things, but one thing is necessary. So let me ask you two questions and I asked you to give them careful thought and then even if you have a program and a pen or pencil to write with to write your answers in your program, would you do that? Just humor me for the next few moments. There’s a space on the back of your program provided for notes. These are not rhetorical questions. I’m serious here. First,
what is the one thing you want most out of these next 25 days? Take a minute. Be honest. You don’t have to give a right answer. There will be no grading this test. You don’t need to over spiritualize it. Just please humor me. Take a minute, think about it, treat it seriously and write down that one thing in your notes. What’s the one thing you want most these next 25 days? Would you write that down? And then the second question, I hope you saved room. There’s a little bit of room there on that program. What are the many things that either actively distract you or will add nothing to that priority, that necessary thing? What are the many things that distract or add nothing to that one necessary thing. Take a minute and write down those distractions, those interruptions, those things that hinder you from that one thing, and now here’s what I want you to do.
If you would please with those notes you’ve made, take them with you of course, but either right now or later today, take those things you wrote down the one necessary thing and the distractions or hindrances to it, and take also your calendar, your to do list from now through Christmas day and eliminate cross out deep six as many number two items as possible because you don’t have to go to every party. You don’t have to hang the outside lights this year. You don’t have to send Christmas cards if people even do that anymore. You don’t have to buy the hallmark singing snowmen. You don’t have to do as much as you’ve been thinking you needed to do.
Then once you’ve done that with your program and your calendar before anything else can creep in and stress you out, I urge you in Jesus’ name to take your number one your necessary thing and block out whatever evenings, maybe or weekends or whole days to focus on what you really want from these next 25 days because listen, I want you to remember the last thing Jesus said in this account, or at least the last thing that was recorded for us. Do you remember what it was? He said, Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better and it will not be taken away from her and it will not be taken away from her. Everything Martha’s stressed about that day in Bethany the floor, she swept the beds. She made the bread, she baked the pillow, she plumped the Febreeze she sprayed was dirty or slept in or eaten or must or stinky the very next day, and just like Martha, a big chunk of what I do and spend myself on every holiday season ends up in a landfill or a sewer system or stored in the attic again for another year. And don’t worry, I’m still gonna make my bed and do 90% of the things my wife tells me to do. But you know what? Will never be taken away from me.
Never. It’s the one necessary thing Mary focused on when she sat at the feet of Jesus that day in Bethany.
It’s the one thing the Psalmist David sang about when he said, one thing I ask of the Lord. This is what I seek. That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple or is the message paraphrase, puts it
to contemplate his Puty to sit at his feet. That’s what I want for Christmas. That’s what I want from my holidays. One thing to feel the touch of God on my heart, to feel him moving in my soul, to feel him closer than the air I breathe, to know his presence, to gaze on his beauty, to study it, his feet, to kneel at his manger until everything else, all the lights on the tinsel, all the worlds God display disappears and all that is left is one
necessary thing. If you would reduce stress as Christmas, get rid of the distractions. Choose one necessary thing and so much the better. If you choose something that can never be taken away from you, because see, everything you have in this world is temporary with the exception of your soul. The Bible says God has planted eternity in the human heart.
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The one thing that can’t be taken away from you, the part of you that will last forever is your soul. That’s why you can do no better this holiday season than to give attention to your immortal soul. And one way you can do that this morning is by means of a simple ceremony we call communion. That is seldom more appropriate been during this season of Christmas, of advent, as we call it. Because in this ceremony, we who follow Jesus Christ hold in our hands, no matter how small, the bread that represents, his incarnation, his humanness, his body, which he allowed to be broken and poured and mangled for us, for you, and we take it into our bodies along with the fruit of the vine that represents his blood, which he willingly spilled for us so that whoever believes in him could have eternal life. Of course, because of that, it has no purpose for our friends who are not yet Christ followers. But that doesn’t mean if that describes you, that you have no role in these next few moments. If you would, I’d invite you as the Christ followers among us participate at parte, the BS element. Consider asking yourself
what’s holding you back and whether today might be the day when you take those elements for the first time, realizing they’re significant and in a visible way, a material way. You step across the line and you say in taking the bread, the juice today, Jesus, as I eat this and as I drink this in my heart, I sit at your feet. I’d become your follower just like Mary. I saved that. I believe that you died for me. I turned my back on my series. I accept your forgiveness because of all that Jesus has done and I accept you as the leader, my rap. If my life from this day forward wind up today, we’re not there.
If you haven’t done that, you can do that as we all partake or if you can’t, if you’re not ready to make that conscious commitment, I invite you to spend these next moments in prayer. Meditation may be asking God to make himself real to you in a new way this Christmas season, while your friends and neighbors renewed their commitment and remind themselves of the home what Jesus has done for us, for you who? Father Jesus. I urge you after I pray, Aaron instructs us to use this time of communion to refocus, to shed all distractions, to gaze on his beauty, to sit at his feet for till all house fades and disappears and all of it is left. Is that more necessary? That’s pray. Jesus, thank you. Get your love for everyone in this room. Took you all the way to Calvary where you endured unimaginable pain so that you might heal ours, forgive our sin, and make that real to us again in these moments.