Advent is a time of preparation. We are preparing ourselves for the arrival of the Lord. Both in memory of His incarnation and as well for His future Parousai. We often forget though that He is also already among us in many special ways.
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.”
In the preceding story we see two people responding to the presence of the Lord, but both in entirely different ways. One is busy preparing her home, making food, fretting over all the small physical details. She is anxious and worried, concerned that everything is not perfect. I think the Master as a man likely appreciated those details as well. In fact, he probably enjoyed the clean home, the comfortable place to rest, the smell of the food cooking in the back, and being fussed over as someone important. (We all seem to enjoy that as humans.)
He reminds us though that Mary has chosen the better of the two, the path of drawing closer to Jesus. She sits at His feet and listens to His words. By reminding Martha of this simple truth, Jesus isn't berating her for what she is doing; rather He is inviting her to do the 'only one' thing that does matter, drawing closer to Him.
What does this have to do with Advent? Advent is a reminder that while Christ is coming again, He is also already here among us. Its an offer to put down the hustle and bustle of life, and instead sit in peace at the feet of Jesus. All too often we turn this season into a time of much anxiety, even competition. Who has the biggest light display? Who can buy the most presents? Who can pepper spray their way to the biggest sale prices?
Jesus reminds us that the most important part of preparing for His presence is drawing closer to Him and hearing His words. Take time this Advent to do just that. Spend time with God. In study. In prayer. In comfort. Giving gifts and gathering together with your family is indeed good and beautiful, but Christmas is not about that. It is instead a season to remember that "few things are needed--or indeed only One."