“In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary.” So begins the story of Gabriel’s visit to Mary in the Gospel of Luke. “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” the angel said to her. “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.”
Mary is puzzled, to say the least, but after the angel explains that the Holy Spirit will come upon her to enable the miracle, “For nothing will be impossible with God,” Mary opens her heart in adoration. “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word,” she reverently says.
Things are set in motion then. Things foretold long ago. The Word will become flesh. Him through Whom all things were created will become part of His creation, taking the form of a man for love. The light of the world, coming to His own to be rejected and crucified for the sins of the world.
But before all that, as Mary heard the news, she went to visit Elizabeth her cousin, who was with child (with John the Baptist), in the hill country in a town in Judah. And there we witness a very special encounter that serves as one of the most compelling pieces of evidence pointing to the value of the unborn child. It is a joyous occasion leading to that glorious Christmas Day, so it is good and appropriate to remember it as we prepare to remember the day this year.
[W]hen Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”
Can you believe it? One unborn child leaped as he recognized the presence of another unborn child.
Yes, Jesus was Lord, the Christ coming to offer redemption and salvation to all who believe, inside his mother’s womb. He was not a blob of tissue. He was not a choice. Sure, it would have been better for Mary to wait until a more opportune time to have a child, but she recognized, as did Elizabeth and her unborn child, that what she carried within her was valuable.
And so does every mother pregnant with her unborn child. If you are one, struggling at this very moment, I want to offer the peace of Immanuel — God with you. What you carry within you is valuable. You are valuable. And though things may seem bleak at the moment, God will see you through it all.
The prospects for Mary were also bleak on the personal side. She was not married yet. Her husband could leave her after hearing the news. She could be rejected by the community. Where would she go? Who would receive her?
As things went, you may remember, she ends up giving birth in a stable! That is not how she envisioned it. It is not how anyone envisioned it. It must not have been easy.
But it was all according to God’s plan. He will use every single detail for our benefit. And today, we celebrate Christmas with glad tidings of great joy, for the Savior of the world is born!
The unborn child. The Christ. Our Lord.