December 23, 2019 • Life for Leaders
So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
Luke 2:4-7 (NIV)
As we draw near to Christmas, I’d like to reflect with you on some ways work is central to the story of the birth of Jesus. Even though many of us will be taking time away from work as we celebrate the holiday, I think it’s a good time to remember just how central work is, not only to our own lives, but also to God’s work in the world.
When I think about Christmas and work, my thoughts turn immediately to Mary. It’s pretty clear that she had much work to do in helping Jesus to be born. For months, she had carried the Son of God in her womb, feeling both the joy and the discomfort of pregnancy.
Then, on the day when Jesus was born, Mary worked harder than she ever had in her life. Her labor was labor indeed! And that was just the beginning of her work as a mother. Luke notes that she “wrapped [Jesus] in cloths and placed him in a manger.” No doubt she also began to care for her baby by feeding him, cleaning him, holding him, and comforting him.
Sometimes when we speak of work, we think only of paid work. But some of the hardest and most rewarding work in life does not receive monetary compensation. Yet “unpaid” work is genuine work. Remember that God created human beings to work, to “be fruitful and multiply”—which most literally refers to the work of bearing and raising children. Our fruitfulness includes much more, to be sure. But bringing children into the world and nurturing them is one crucial element of human work. It’s the work of mothers, centrally, but also of all who join with mothers to care for, teach, disciple, and love children.
So, as we think about work in the Christmas story, we remember Mary, grateful for her faithfulness and her very, very, very hard work.
Something to Think About:
As you read the Christmas story in Luke, what do you picture in your mind? Does this image reflect the truth of the biblical story? Or is it shaped more by familiar traditions associated with Christmas?
If you are a mother, do you think of your mothering as part of your work? Why or why not?
As you reflect on Mary’s work in giving birth to Jesus, what thoughts come to mind? What feelings? What longings?
Something to Do:
If your mother is alive, find a time in the next week to thank her for all the work she did in bringing you into this world and raising you. If your mother is with the Lord, thank him for your mother and her work in your life.
Gracious God, thank you for Mary, for her openness to your miraculous work in her life, for her trust in you, and for her labor in giving birth to Jesus. Thank you for all she did to nurture the very Son of God.
As I reflect on Mary’s work, I’m reminded to thank you for the work done by all mothers, from the very beginnings of life and all the way through. I ask you, Lord, to bless mothers today with your grace, wisdom, patience, strength, and love. May they sense your joy in this special element of their work. Amen.
Explore more at The High Calling archive, hosted by the Theology of Work Project:
Our Waiting Is Over! The Savior Is Born and Laid in a Manger
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, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.
I just had a conversation with a neighbor’s daughter that her mom cared for her, fed her, helped her when she was sick, drove her to school, paid for higher education, etc. I witnessed an ungrateful daughter who felt even though she’s still living in her mother’s house and got her mom to pay for a new car + insurance it was a strange thing for her mom to ask her to clean the house.
After reading this, I texted her to just clean the house for her mom for Christmas—just do it–like the Nike ad–and don’t worry about any snarky comments as your work in the Lord will not be in vain. Thank you for this message which just perfectly fit this situation.