Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! In this blog, I write about the nativity and Mary's inspirational response to, what was in one sense, an unplanned pregnancy.
For Christians, Christmas is about the nativity of Jesus Christ. That the second person of the trinity became incarnate in human flesh to save the world from sin. Without the nativity, there is no Gospel, which is why many Christians believe it important to have a day to celebrate and remember the birth of Jesus. When I read the nativity as a Life Matters Officer, I am amazed by the strength of Mary in her response to, what was in one sense, an unplanned pregnancy. Though poor and young, Mary did not consider her pregnancy harmful to her wellbeing. On the contrary, she considered it a blessing and a gift (see Luke 1:46-55). Mary’s response is contrasted by the contemporary Greco-Roman culture, which devalued the lives of women and children through the rampant practice of abortion and infanticide. Unlike Mary, it did not acknowledge the unique power of women to have children as a blessing or gift, but as a weakness to be exploited. It did not protect women, but sought to suppress the natural function of their bodies through lethal toxins and instruments. It is no exaggeration to say that Greco-Roman culture violently discriminated against women both young and old. Historians have found a letter from the first century BCE wherein a Roman solider writes to his pregnant wife saying, ‘If it is male, let it live. If it is female, expose it [i.e. leave it to someone else to raise or die]’.1 How was such an action morally justified? One news article answers that, ‘During Roman times, it was not uncommon for infants to be killed as a form of birth control. It was not a crime as new-born infants where viewed as not being “fully human”’.2 The sad truth is that when a culture denies the scientific fact that human life begins at conception, or the moral principle that all human beings are of equal intrinsic value, whomever has the most power decides who deserves life. The nativity exemplifies how tragic this denial can be in Matthew 2:16:
When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under…
Yet Mary persevered despite her poverty and youth, despite the gossip and slander, and despite the surrounding male-centred Greco-Roman culture. Her perseverance can be inspirational to us all regardless of our religious belief or lack thereof. For Life, it comes at a particular pertinent time given this difficult year. (This year, Life was forcibly and illegally removed from Lambeth County Fair and were rejected by many University Freshers’ Fairs who seek to restrict pro-life speech on campus.) In taking inspiration from Mary’s perseverance, this Christmas, the team at Life recommit ourselves to being countercultural in acknowledging the unique power of women to have children as a great good. We recommit ourselves to upholding women’s rights by offering care and support to women facing an unplanned pregnancy. And we recommit ourselves to doing our utmost to protect the lives of children in the womb by providing alternatives to abortion that value both lives.
Thank you for standing with us through this year as we fought for the right to life of unborn children and for support for their mothers. We look to 2019 with hope that more lives will be saved as we forge ahead in this great mission. From our family here at Life to you and your whole family, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
- M. R. Reese, “The Discovery of a Mass Baby Grave under Roman Bathhouse in Ashkelon, Israel”, Ancient Origins, December 4, 2014.
- See Jo-Ann Shelton, As the Romans Did: A Source Book in Roman Social History (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 1998), 28.