Yokes & Burdens: Or, Martha & Mary

“For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” – Matthew 11:30

“My husband’s relatives are arriving two days early, and he’s going out of town. I feel like throwing up …. Maybe in his stocking.”  – A friend, cf. Lamentations 5:5

On this 4th Sunday of Advent (Only 6 Shopping Days Left!), let’s take a quiet moment to consider what a yoke is: a farmer’s tool, designed to conjoin two creatures so that ONLY side-by-side can they work to produce beneficial goods. The yoke would be a useless folly with only one creature in it.

As people formed in the image of a Triune, relational God, we rightly sense that it is a useless folly to try to make progress on our own. We crave yoke-mates. Sometimes unfortunately for us, however, we are not slapped into our yokes like unwitting oxen.  No, we are given the freedom – the gift – of choice.

So, we should reflect: to whom or what do we yoke ourselves?  On whom or what do we rely for our strength in accomplishing the tasks of each day?  Do we depend on lists, money, jobs, independence, relatives, past achievements, beauty, or busyness?  All those things have their place, but they are not our best yoke-mates.  Jesus is. If we choose to unite ourselves with Him in steadfast devotion, plowing forward each morning with Christ solidly at our side, we will find that ALL good progress becomes marvelously possible, even in what seem to be bad times.  The weight on our shoulders becomes remarkably slight.

Another challenging way to read the same Scripture is in an even more literal sense.  What if the yoke that Jesus places on our shoulders this season is easiness?  Perhaps He is telling us: “Ease up!  You are not Martha Stewart.  You’re not my Biblical pal Martha, either.  And even if you were, I would say: Dear child, please, ignore the magazines that insist on glossy glamour.  Disregard the pressures to provide perfection.  Resist the call to buy more unnecessary stuff.  Remember what the ‘decorations’ were like in the innkeeper’s cave, and allow yourselves to deliberately choose simplicity.  Slow down.  Pray.  Listen.  Love.”

And then, when we are prepared to receive it, our ‘burden’ will become Light.  The light of Christ: a pure, sweet pleasure to carry, to reveal, and to share with others.  Just like The Blessed Virgin Mary did.

Merry Christmas.