Each Christmas we get caught up in the whirl of preparation and parties, and often tend to forget what the occasion is.
Christmas, above all else, is a birthday; and while we all know it is a special birthday, we easily forget that this particular pregnancy could not have been joyful always for the mother and the foster father.
Consider some facts. A young woman is visited by a spirit who tells her she is with child. While she had faith and said, “Thy will be done,” she was human and, perhaps, for a period of time she wondered, “why me?”
Was it easy for her to tell her parents? To tell her betrothed husband? To face neighbours and friends with her body visibly spreading as the baby grew? Who among them would not have regarded it an “unexpected pregnancy?” Surely, not only Our Lady but also all who knew and loved her must have shared a faith many of us can never hope to emulate.
Wouldn’t St Joseph have had some moments of doubt? Yet he did not turn round and say, “it isn’t my problem,” he accepted the commitment.
Nor did the birth itself occur amid secure and familiar surroundings: the couple had had to travel many miles to satisfy some bureaucratic obligations. T. S. Eliot, in “Journey of the Magi”, uses one of the three kings, who were looking for the child, to describe their journey.
A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.
Pressures of pro-life work
If it was a hard journey for men of wealth, imagine the hardships faced by a young couple, with no luxuries, and with the women expecting to give birth at any moment. As we know, there was no room at the inn and the most important baby in the history of the world was born in a stable.
The commitment of this couple is an example for us all today when inconvenient or unexpected pregnancies and complicated family situations prompt many to destroy their “unwanted” children rather than to face their responsibilities.
It is flippant to imply that abortion would have been an option for Mary, although as an ordinary human being she had a free will and could have rejected the honour offered to her. It is equally flippant to prattle that life was simpler in those days, or to suggest that every pregnancy, under every circumstance, was welcomed and wanted. After all, as our opponents correctly (and irrelevantly) insist on pointing out, babies have been aborted throughout all of history.
The essential change is society since that first Christmas is that now people no longer have the faith or energy to accept God’s will or to trust in Him to help them carry out their commitments. They don’t even trust one another much any more, let alone themselves. Small wonder that abortion is so appealing.
As for us in pro-life, well, many of us are simply becoming exhausted by the pressures of pro-life work. Many people sacrificed their summer vacations to work for the unborn during the last federal election; many sat in a Toronto courtroom, or demonstrated outside, for week after week during both the Morgentaler pre-trial hearing and the trial. Many of us are sickened and depressed at the jury’s verdict that Morgentaler was not guilty – even when he admitted he was. The spectacle of Morgentaler and his supporters jumping up and down for joy, promising to reopen the Toronto clinic within a month and parading down Yonge Street on Saturday afternoon (with a juror chanting “Girls Just Want to Have Fun”, has perhaps tempted some pro-life supporters to throw up their hands, thinking “what is the use”?”
Too small to plead their case
The “use” is obvious. The unborn are too important to be ignored and yet they are too small to plead their own case. We must take inspiration from the first nativity and not reject the responsibility God has given us. Eliot’s magus was changed by that birth, he saw his own world more clearly:
…this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our place, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
While we continue to lobby for a return to a legal and medical system which will protect the rights of the unborn, we must press for more adequate services for pregnant women in need. Why continue to allow the likes of Planned Parenthood to receive government and foundation funding when the support groups for distressed pregnant women do not receive enough funding to help but a fraction of those who need them?
As you shop this Christmas, give some thought to those who do not have the blessings of family and friends to share the joys of the season and to support them when in need, who have no magi to visit them. Consider making a donation to the crises pregnancy center in your area and one to your local pro-life group. Perhaps you have old baby furniture, or baby or maternity clothes that could be given to needy women and children. Can you sew of knit something? Or organize a fund-raising event in your community? Have you a few hours a week to spare? Could you perhaps volunteer to help counsel pregnant women? – your experience is valuable and might be vital.
We all say that actions speak louder than words. Your action this Christmas might save a baby’s life. What greater gift is there?