A Contemporary Question

What if Jesus were to be born into the world today?

The Spoken Version

Listen to an audio version of this reflection.

The Scripture

Luke 1:39-55

In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.

When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and she cried out, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.”

Then Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for He has looked with favor on the lowliness of His servant.

“Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is His name.

“His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.

“He has shown strength with His arm; He has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; He has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.

“He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of His mercy, according to the promise He made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”

Photo of a flower

A Pregnant Young Woman by Deborah Beach Giordano

A Child is Born to Us

Elizabeth greets Mary

When I read the story of Mary's visit to Elizabeth I cannot help wondering: what if this happened in America today? What if, instead of seeking out a loving family member, the young woman went to a Planned Parenthood clinic?

I think we all know the answer.

As Christians we cannot ignore the implications of the fact that our Lord Jesus was born of a woman — a woman who became pregnant outside the bounds of legal matrimony. Jesus was an “unplanned pregnancy.”

We may say that the One has nothing to do with others; that His special nature was ordained by Above, was, as it were, destined to be. But our God abides by free will: our consent and agreement is required; thus the joyful recognition of Mary’s “fiat” — her magnificent Yes to giving Jesus life.

Could it have happened otherwise, could the Eternal have brought the Gospel to us in another fashion? We are tempted to insist Surely yes, for with God all things are possible. Yet, equally surely, it was intended to be as it was: a divine-human enterprise, the consummation of a mutual love affair.

Our God is life-giving: our God is the Life-Giver.

The Snake in the Garden

the snake in the gardenAs our ancient Scriptures testify, human beings are easily enthralled by the temptation to become “as gods:” to supplant the One, to claim ultimate authority and bend the world to their will. This tale has been repeated throughout generations and across the planet — no people or culture has been immune. And none has succeeded. Yet the wicked impulse continues to devour and to destroy.

It is a disorder of the Spirit: a thorn of envy that lodges in the heart, blocking the flow of love and causing an infection of resentment, fear, and hatred. The mind becomes obsessed with Self: others are mere tools — or weapons — of power and control; God is denied, human life is deemed expendable “in service of the cause.”

Unable to match the work of Creation, these would-be godlings instead focus on destruction. They cannot build up, so instead they tear down. Failing to give life, they beget death in endless guises. Death is their signature and speciality.


“Choose life!” Moses cried as the vagabond Israelites were poised to take up the Challenge of becoming the People of God, “I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing. Choose life, so that you and your descendants may live, and that you may love the Lord your God, obey Him, and hold fast to Him” (Deuteronomy 30:19-20).

pregnant MaryIn this Season, above all others, Mary’s glorious consent to cooperate with the Holy Plan must echo across the ages and resonate in our lives. A child is not an object, a thing to be set aside, discarded like so much rubbish.

For Christians, to choose life is to align our lives with the Giver of Life; it is to live in the Light of Christ, bearing that Light within us, carrying it forth into the world. Faith demands that we shine Christ’s Light on the questions of life and death, with profound, considered prayer, research, and reflection.

To choose life — which I will call cherishing life — is to accept the confusing and difficult multiplicity that it entails. It is to advocate for what is life-giving and soul enriching. This means that we cannot ignore the hungry, hurting, and abused who are already with us — nor can we overlook those lives yet to be lived.

To imagine that either motherhood — or its termination — is without ramifications and responsibilities is to delude ourselves. Equally so, with fatherhood; men are not to be discarded or ignored, either. Many men — I would say that most — care, and care passionately about their children. Their lives matter, too.

Questions, Questions….

There are no easy answers to the issues of Life and of Death. We’d like to think so; we’d like there to be a clear and solid dividing line that would absolve us of responsibility, relying on laws, court decisions, physical limitations, government regulations… But ethical issues are our business as Christians; we are disciples of the Good News, called to bring comfort and joy to the world — not isolationists who sit back and watch as the world implodes and souls writhe in agony.

the earth from space

We are part of a world in which 21-week gestation infants are surviving and thriving; a world in which government-funded laboratories are concocting genocidal poisons; a world in which previously-terminal diseases can be cured, and in which suicides among 17-29 year olds are at an all-time high. There's a lot happening; if we do not lift up our voices, if we do not shine the Light of compassion, if we do not advocate for healing and peace and life — who will?

Faith Filters

As people of faith, we are called to filter all that we learn and experience through the lens of the Divine Story: where is God in this, and how can what is holy and good be best embodied?

What is the chief end [purpose] of humanity?
Our chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever.
    ~ The Westminster Shorter Catechism

To be a mindful, prayerful, faithful Christian is challenging. Tough moral questions evoke strong emotions and long-held opinions, and there are experts and data to support every side; simple answers don’t exist. Seldom is there a “one size fits all” solution.

Choosing rightly and well is not easy. Yet here we are, called to be Christ’s followers in this place at this time; called to shine His Light into our world. May God give us gentle, teachable hearts, and courageous, compassionate spirits so that, like All-Gracious Mary, we may do His will.

Christ’s glorious, redeeming, healing love abound,


Suggested Spiritual Exercise

Challenge yourself to take a heart-felt, prayer-full look at the significant moral issues of our day. Do the policies and programs you support “glorify God,” and celebrate life?

A Changed Understanding

This link will take you to a poem I composed in response to conversations with women who underwent abortions which they came to regret. Their stories are sad and troubling, and they have shaken my previous certainty about abortion “rights.” We are foolish and faithless to apply a one-size-fits all answer to infinitely diverse and complex situations.