As pro-life Christians welcoming the birth of our Saviour this Christmas, we can prayerfully contemplate the Gospel for a deeper understanding of how to build the culture of life in our contemporary society. In particular, Luke’s infancy narrative reveals certain clear needs of women, especially abortion-minded women such as those we counsel at Aid to Women.
- We need to rely on someone greater than ourselves. Abortion is a deceptive fallback for birth control, recklessness or a shattered fantasy. Unlike Zechariah, whose specific prayer for fertility has been heard, Mary deals with an unexpected situation, a crisis pregnancy. But she is God’s lowly handmaid (1:38, 48) – someone entirely dependent on God. Only for that reason can the power of the Most High overshadow her (1:35). Mary trusts in the big picture, aware of her finitude. Mary keeps mysterious events in heart and ponders them (2:19, 51).
- We need to be faithful to the commands of God. Abortion is a grave transgression that damages everyone involved, and estranges from God everyone who is culpable. Notwithstanding human intrusion, Zechariah and Elizabeth name their son John as instructed by Gabriel (1:13, 60, 63). Not presuming as to their own righteousness, Joseph and Mary follow the law completely (2:22, 39), giving God first place in their lives.
- We need to honour men without turning them and our human relationships into idols. A pregnant woman can be tempted to abortion when she finds herself coerced or abandoned by an intimate male partner who has not yet committed to her and her children. Zechariah and Elizabeth, Joseph and Mary, and the widowed Anna each model a covenant marriage relationship, which is the ideal context for welcoming children.
- We need to be open to the sanctity of life of each and every specific individual. A pregnant woman can be led to minimize the life within her and can actually be deluded into thinking she can have this same child again later on when she feels ready. Whether a child’s origins are in love or in human error, God makes no mistake with any conception. Gabriel tells Zechariah that the future John the Baptist “will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb” (1:15). In turn, the unborn John recognizes his Messiah. Elizabeth tells Mary, “At the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy” (1:44).
- We need to hear from one another that we are, and can be, good. A woman is the crown of creation and the devil targets her vulnerability. Sadly, some families give the message that a young person is hated, worthless or valuable only conditionally. When her upbringing has been unbearable, and she does not know herself to be trustworthy, a pregnant woman may worry that she cannot pull off parenthood or that kids deserve better than she knows how to give. Mary’s condition was scandalous and she could have been condemned. But Elizabeth took the time to honour Mary for her faith and virtue: “Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled” (1:45).
- We need to protect ourselves, our fertility and our children from risk. The typical woman calling a CPC is experiencing multiple stressors – and frequently feels compelled to make a decision precisely at the stage when she is likely to have the “pregnancy blues.” Elizabeth and Mary’s husbands both come through for them – but the women themselves also took action to affirm life. Elizabeth, who had overcome infertility, kept herself in seclusion until the unborn John was almost certainly viable (1:24). Mary, who technically faced stoning and had not yet been assured of Joseph’s fidelity, went away “in haste” to stay with her relatives for her entire first trimester (1:39, 56).
- We need to surrender our fear, confidently offering thanks for life and praise to its Creator. A pregnant woman who chooses life may be surprised at the kindness of strangers who offer her the support, healing and supplies she seeks. Gabriel tells Zechariah, Mary, and the angels: “Do not be afraid” (1:13, 30; 2:10) and assures Mary that “nothing will be impossible for God” (1:37). Mary, Zechariah and Simeon each offer God a canticle (1:46-55; 1:67-79; 2:29-32). And John and Jesus, who sometimes have only minimal physical provisions, nevertheless thrive in fulfillment of God’s plan (1:80; 2:40, 52).