How to have a Mary Christmas

By Sharon Duncan
The smell of apple cinnamon from a wax melt slowly liquefying in my warmer mingles with freshly brewed coffee, and I sink into my favorite chair with a book I’ve been looking forward to reading.


I know no simpler way to describe this feeling. So often we miss it, this one easy concept that Jesus reiterated over and over again. “Be still,” he whispers. And yet, we continue to wrestle and strive to make and mold our days into the image of our ideal until we are weary with the trying. The mark falls short in spite of our heroic efforts, and we fear we have failed.
Once again, the holiday season is here, filled with all the wonder and excitement of family gatherings, cozy memories, and worship. This is the most precious time of the year if we keep our focus where it belongs.
But something else beckons us as we scroll wide-eyed through the array of beautiful, creative, and delicious things our friends have pinned to their boards. We promise ourselves that we will have that cookie swap this year or make homemade candy for all of the neighbors and fashion everyone on our list a special handmade scarf in their favorite colors.
And somewhere in the middle of rushing to the craft store for one more spool of red thread a week before Christmas, we wonder why we ever thought this was a good idea in the first place.

What just happened?

There is certainly nothing wrong with any of these plans as long as you are able to accomplish them joyfully. The problem comes in when we make these activities the marker for a successful holiday and then spend all of our time to that end.
If you find yourself stressed and ready to just have it all over with, you have missed it. You should have just bought everyone a fruitcake and sat down with a cup of hot peppermint mocha coffee, some good Christmas music, and Jesus.

Mary and Martha give us the perfect example.

A modern Martha runs to and fro in the kitchen making sure she has enough red and white twine to finish her Christmas burlap wreath for the front door. After all, she has extended family coming over this evening. She mutters to herself as she ties the last candy cane to the wreath form and fluffs the burlap one more time before hanging it. The three-layer, peppermint fudge cake in the oven is done, and she shuts the timer off with one hand as she grabs a big, red, oven mitt.
The adorable manger place cards made of twigs she gathered from the yard earlier today are all carefully arranged on the placemats. Martha heaves a sigh of frustration as she realizes she forgot to pick up a gold marker pen to write names on them. Now she will just have to use black. The phone rings, and she answers it, exasperated that anyone would be so thoughtless as to call her while she is trying to accomplish so much.
Meanwhile, Mary sits on her sofa surrounded by her three little ones as the Christmas tree blinks and sparkles. Her voice carries an extra note of excitement as she reads aloud a children’s version of the Christmas story. The delicious aroma of roast cooking in her crockpot fills the house, and the cookie dough she mixed up and put in the freezer a couple of weeks ago sits thawing in the fridge.
In the background, a CD of favorite Christmas hymns plays quietly. As story time ends, she helps the children take down their art supplies to make special cards for their grandparents. Her heart swells with gratitude as she watches them work. Mary has chosen the better part.

Three Questions to Ask Yourself:
  • Will this activity reflect the joy of Christmas?
  • Will it help me and others spend time in the presence of Christ?
  • Does it give us time to experience the peace of Christmas?

Sharon Duncan lives in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains with her husband, Tony, two sons who are now college guys, and her last homeschooler, a daughter. She is a homeschool veteran of twelve years as well as a Registered Nurse who works weekends and loves to read, write, sew, and travel. Visit her at

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