Monday, December 20, 2010

Mary or Martha during Advent?

This is most likely my last post of the year, so I'll try to make it a good one.  You may have read my article, "A Counter-Cultural Quiet in Advent" a couple of weeks ago, in which I confess my spiritual struggles during this beautiful season on the church calendar.  I propose that we simplify our celebrations and devote time to quiet and solitude as well as to corporate celebration.

My suggestions are not uncommon among Christians who feel a little disillusioned with our cultural celebrations, but if we're honest, reshaping the nature of the season presents some significant social problems.  I was reading through the Advent section of Living the Christian Year a few days ago, in which the author, Bobby Gross makes some similar suggestions as I do. He then recounts a conversation he had with a friend over this issue:

"My struggle boils down to this," bemoaned my friend Courtney. "You can't be Mary and Martha at the same time; someone has to do the cooking!" She vented this frustration after a dinner party where the conversation had turned to the tension between Advent as a spiritual season and December as a month of cultural craziness. "Your description of Advent requires Mary time," she said in a later email,

yet of all the times of the year - especially for a woman with children and a conscience - Advent is the most impossible to be Mary-like. The Christmas machine (church, school, family, neighborhood, office, charitable activities) is so giant that it would require radical steps to extricate oneself. Steps that could send a message to one's community of being uncharitable and that could feed resentment in one's own family." Living the Christian Year, p. 45

That's a really provocative statement, right?  So, my question is, if you were respond to Courtney over email, what would you say to her?