Christmas and Work: Imitating Mary in our Attitude Toward Our Work

By Mark D. Roberts

December 14, 2016

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.

Luke 1:38


The angel speaking to Mary.In yesterday’s Life for Leaders devotion, we considered how God interrupted Zechariah in the context of his work. Today, we encounter another interruption, though the text does not inform us of the context. In Luke 1:26-38, the angel Gabriel appeared to a young woman named Mary, informing her that she would give birth to a son and that he would be the messianic king of Israel (1:26-28). Mary was “greatly troubled” by this announcement (1:29) because she had not engaged in sexual relations with a man. The angel explained that her pregnancy would come, not by ordinary means, but by the power of the Holy Spirit. For this reason, Mary’s holy son would be called “the Son of God” (1:35).

We can only begin to imagine how Mary must have felt upon hearing this angelic news. On the one hand, she was uniquely favored by God to bear God’s own Son, an extraordinary honor and calling. Surely Mary felt excited, grateful, and humbled. Yet, at the same time, what Mary heard must have troubled her, since her life would never be the same again and the people in her life, including her fiancé, would probably see her as an immoral woman rather than a woman highly favored by God.

Nevertheless, Mary’s response to the angel was a simple but profound statement of faith and submission: “I am the Lord’s servant. . . . May your word to me be fulfilled” (1:38). Wow! What an astounding and exemplary response to God’s unexpected call. The word translated in the NIV as “servant” (doulos) might more accurately be rendered as “slave.” Mary was saying, in effect, my life is not my own. I belong to God and God can do with me as he pleases. I freely and gladly submit to his will.

Many of us are in a position to choose the kind of work we do. An angel of the Lord hasn’t assigned it to us. Sometimes, however, what we do for our occupation has been determined for us by our family, financial condition, or social station. Yet, whether we have chosen our form of employment or it has been laid upon us, we have the opportunity to choose to imitate Mary. We can offer ourselves to the Lord as his servant/slave, doing our daily work for his purposes, glory, and delight. In fact, in his counsel to slaves and masters in Ephesians 6:5-9, the Apostle Paul commends this very thing.

So, today, no matter what you do for your work, no matter whether you are being paid or not, no matter whether you have chosen your work or had it assigned to you, may God give you the grace to imitate Mary. May you say, “I am your servant, Lord. May my work honor you and contribute to your sovereign purposes today. I offer to you all that I am.”


What does Mary’s response to the angel evoke in you?

Have you ever found yourself in a situation rather like that of Mary? When? What did you do?

In your daily work, no matter what it is, are you able to offer yourself to the Lord as his slave/servant? What helps you to do this? What makes this difficult?


Gracious God, thank you for the amazing example of Mary. Her response to the angel encourages and challenges us. May we respond to you with openness and humility. May we offer ourselves to you as your slaves/servants, not just in our personal lives, but in everything we do. In particular, may we be your slaves/servants in our work today. Be glorified in us, we pray. Amen.


Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online Bible commentaryGod at Work (Luke 1, 2 and 4)

Mark D. Roberts

Senior Strategist

Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders,...

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