Can you imagine what it must have been like for young Mary, probably barely a teenager, to carry the unfathomable, incomprehensible burden of being chosen to become the earthly mother of the incarnate Christ? She had recently been betrothed, and suddenly the angel Gabriel appeared to her to announce, “”Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you” (Luke 1:28).
The Scriptures don’t record Mary’s response, but I suspect her first thought was, “Uh, okay?” They do inform us she was “greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be” (verse 29). Ya think? Then the angel dumped the whole load:
“Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High” (Luke 1:30-32).
Again, the passage doesn’t offer her immediate response, but I bet it was the Hebrew equivalent of, “Say what?!” It does tell us she asked an obvious question: “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” (verse 34). Can you blame her for asking? After briefly describing the divine process that would soon come about, Gabriel finished by declaring, “For nothing is impossible with God” (verse 37).
To her credit, Mary didn’t prolong the discussion, asking if the angel could repeat what he had just told her. She simply responded, “I am the Lord’s servant…. May it be to me as you have said” (verse 38). Then Gabriel, as you might say, left the building.
I don’t mean to make light of this holy moment, but the Bible is nothing if not a very honest, very human book – yet divinely inspired. This definitely wasn’t what Mary had in mind in beginning preparations for her wedding. Who to invite? Yes. What kind of meal to serve? Probably. But the prospect of carrying the Son of God – God in the flesh – in her virgin womb? Not a chance.
Keep in mind that, unlike today when hardly anyone blinks anymore if we hear of a woman having a baby out of wedlock, it was a shameful state in Mary’s time. Women typically were regarded as second-class citizens, even property, in those days. They were expected to toe the line in laws and customs. This was why the Bible tells us her fiancé, Joseph, upon learning the news, “had in mind to divorce her quietly” (Matthew 1:19), being a righteous man, despite his feelings of embarrassment.
Then an angel of the Lord, perhaps Gabriel, also appeared to Joseph and interceded: “…do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save the people from their sins” (Luke 1:20-21). Also a man of great faith, Joseph did as the angel instructed.
So can you understand the conundrum, the exciting yet terrifying news that first Mary, and then Joseph, had to absorb and deal with?
I think about this because, in one respect, it seems a biblical statement about abortion. I don’t know if abortion was even practiced in the days of Jesus, but surely being unwed and pregnant was more than an inconvenience for Mary. What would people think? What would they do? Thank the Lord her betrothed husband was willing to follow through on his marriage commitment.
Do you think Mary even for a moment might have thought, “How can I get rid of this baby? I didn’t volunteer for this!” And yet, the massive, world-changing Christmas story we’re soon to celebrate found its inception in the lives of these two young people.
Fast-forwarding to today, we find many in the “pro-choice” abortion camp declaring “it’s a woman’s body,” and “it’s about women’s reproductive health.” I know, being a male, I’m not supposed to know about such things. But my wife has borne five children, and together we have 12 grandchildren and soon, six great-grandkids. So I do know at least a little about women getting pregnant, having babies and starting to raise them in this world.
At its heart, a decision to have an abortion is not just a “personal choice.” It affects far more than an individual woman troubled by a tiny, growing human being in her tummy. It’s a decision that affects many people, perhaps countless. How many lives have been touched – and changed – by the life of Jesus Christ through the centuries?
In our family, we are the beneficiaries of three women who made truly courageous, unselfish decisions not to terminate their pregnancies. One, more than 50 years ago, gave birth to a baby boy in times when being pregnant while not married was still regarded as a taboo. Today, he employs about 60 people in a thriving small business that’s making a difference in his community, and many customers benefit from the services his company provides.
Best of all, a few years ago, he was reunited with his birth mother and soon afterward met siblings he never knew existed. What an image to see him, his birth mom, and his loving, adoptive mother who raised him from infancy getting together for the first time!
We also have two adopted grandsons, wonderful, engaging little boys whose impact on our entire family is beyond measure. In both cases, their birth mothers courageously chose to go through the trials and challenges of pregnancy to give them life – and surrender them to a loving home that was ready to care for and nurture them, when they were not.
Recently, a brief segment during a college football game told about a young woman about 20 years ago who initially went to a facility to have an abortion, but then left and chose to give birth to her baby and raise him. Today, he is a stellar athlete and a young man of great character. Countless millions have enjoyed his athletic prowess and will continue to do so for years to come.
So to say that abortion should be solely a woman’s choice is wrong, when in fact it’s taking the life of a little human who is not yet ready for life outside the womb. Each new life, famous or not, has the potential for influencing and having an impact on the lives of countless others.
I get it. Having an unwanted pregnancy is a daunting, even terrifying prospect, as it was for Mary some 2,000 years ago. But in God’s sight, no life is without reason or without purpose. As Psalm 139:13-16 tells us:
“For [God] created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well…. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”
As you contemplate Mary and the Christ Child this Christmas season, please think about that.