It may feel like a stereotype for a pregnancy center to put out a Christmas reflection on how Christmas is the result of an unplanned pregnancy. But you wouldn’t believe how often that fact goes over the heads of even the most astute of us. We speak of Jesus’ birth as ‘the immaculate conception’, ‘the virgin birth’, ‘God taking on flesh’, and so on. Very few of us speak of it or think of it as an “unplanned pregnancy” and yet that is—from the point of view of both Mary and Joseph—what it was. Unplanned. Unknown ahead of time. Unprepared for.
Sometimes people want to treat the means by which Jesus came into this world as incidental. But it wasn’t. As St. Athanasius points out in his On the Incarnation, the beauty of Jesus becoming human rests in the fact that it is through his adoption of humanity that humanity is redeemed: what one wishes to redeem, one must assume. But let’s be clear that Jesus’ assumption of humanity was not just in the acquisition of DNA, gender, and the development of tastebuds. That is, it was not just in the substance. It was also in the process. A process that ran through embryonic development through years of infancy, toddlerhood, adolescence, awkward teenager acne stage, young adulthood, and even into middle age where “everything starts to break after thirty.”
The process was not merely physically developmental though. It was also situational. When Scripture says that Jesus can identify with us (Heb 4), we’re not merely talking about the temptation of sin but of what it means to be human. With all its joys and celebrations; with all its despairs and struggles. Jesus knew friendship. He also knew betrayal. Jesus knew love for family. He also likely grieved the loss of a father. Jesus knew laughter and joy but he also knew anger and sadness. Why? Because Jesus lived life in the same day to day kind of way that we do. Day in a day out. Minute by minute. Hour by hour. Situation by situation.
It is unsurprising (in one sense, at least!) that Jesus would seek to put himself right into several of the kinds of life situations many of us find ourselves in. He could have preserved himself from all of that. But choosing to come about via an unplanned pregnancy is, without a doubt, a major “opener.” It sets the stage, says something about the way the rest of the program is going to go! God’s entrance into this world to save it was as a child the rest of the world would have considered “an untimely mistake” and by both the wisdom of our modern world and the ancient world respectively, Mary would have been better off moving forward with terminating the pregnancy.
The how God chooses to do stuff is typically just as important as what God chooses to do. We’d be remiss if we focused on the incarnation this season without also focusing equally on the means of the incarnation: an unplanned, unscheduled, unexpected, “crisis” pregnancy.
That should resonate with us at a deep level. For one, it tells us that no pregnancy is “unplanned, unscheduled, unexpected” in the eyes of God. No pregnancy is incidental. There are, of course, always questions around why a certain pregnancy didn’t come to fruition or why certain complications arose in the way that they did. Those questions we also can find resonance within Jesus, knowing that he asked the same “why” questions we ask in the darkest portions of our lives (Mark 15.34). But the existence of “why” questions doesn’t eliminate his providence over every life that begins to exist. If God is the source of every life, then every life that begins finds its source in Him.
For another thing, it tells us that God’s redemption and restoration work are not reserved for those already born. Jesus’ assumption of our very nature in the very womb means that Jesus’ redemption work shines even into the womb, even into the earliest stages of embryonic development. When Jesus says “Look, I am making all things new” (Rev 21.5) he is NOT just referring to things born and visible and concrete! He’s even including the things unborn and not seen! And in my opinion, I think there will be more that is redeemed and restored in the Kingdom of God that is unknown and unseen by humans than that that is!
Finally, it reminds us that the journey from womb to birth is a sacred journey. Mary was “with child”, not “with fetus.” No Christian would hold that Jesus was “just a clump of cells” at any stage or that he was “just a fetus” until the scene in the barn. The whole experience from conception to Bethlehem was a sacred journey, reminiscent of the same developmental journeys each human in need of salvation goes through. Jesus’ participation in our story, thus, is not merely in part. It is in whole! And thank God for that!
As you embark on this Christmas, remember this: God is a God not just of the substance of our lives but of the very process of our lives. He demonstrated this by being developed like us, being born like us, living a life like us, and dying like us. Jesus saw it important in his restoration campaign to walk through every aspect of life and death with us, even that of the unborn, unplanned, unexpected child. That alone says a lot about the nature of redemption.
The Assurance Staff