A young, unmarried woman receives very unexpected news. Her fiancé does not handle it well. She anticipates the scorn of her close-knit, religious community. The woman’s story sounds all too familiar. However, her story is anything but normal, because this is Mary, the mother of Jesus. The child in her womb, this unplanned pregnancy, was anything but a mistake—He is the greatest gift given to man, God Incarnate.
In Luke’s Gospel, Chapter 1, verse 29, Mary is described as greatly troubled by the Angel’s greeting and the news of her pending pregnancy. I think it is fair to say that every young woman who finds out she is facing an unplanned pregnancy, especially out of wedlock, feels greatly troubled. Given that an angel is NOT present to assure her that God has a purpose and plan for her child, she probably feels very alone and afraid. She may also feel embarrassed and ashamed for having sex outside of marriage and for not being more careful and responsible.
I know that is how I felt when I was 16-years-old and found out I was facing an unplanned pregnancy. Instead of looking to God or my family for help, I looked for a way to hide my mistake and the shame I felt for being pregnant and engaging in irresponsible behavior. To keep one secret (unmarried sex), I had an abortion, which then became another secret I carried in the deep recesses of my heart for 19 years.
Personal insecurities and the fear of becoming a mother prevented me and so many other woman from embracing our unplanned pregnancies as planned blessings from God. While Mary had the unique honor of giving birth to Jesus Christ, Savior of the world, all of us who have aborted our children will never know the blessings and talents God had endowed our children with and the plans He had for them to glorify Him and make a difference in the world.
As a society and especially as the Church we must remember unplanned pregnancy is not a sin, premarital sexual intimacy is. Yet ask yourself for a moment what would evoke typically a more negative reaction in families: the knowledge that a teen is sexually active or the knowledge that a teen has become pregnant?
If, in one way or another, the message is communicated that teen pregnancy will cause more of a problem than teen sex, then we are inadvertently creating an incentive for abortion. After all, if one can abort the pregnancy without the family’s knowledge, why endure the trouble that will result by revealing it?
Parents in the home need to clearly communicate that, although they have a standard of abstinence, if their teenager is pregnant or has contracted a sexually transmitted disease, they need to know they can come to you. Untreated STD’s can turn into pelvic inflammatory disease, which often renders girls infertile. As parents and the Church, you need to make it clear that your goal is to encourage chastity, not punish pregnancy.
Later in Luke 2 and in Matthew 2 we are told that the birth of Jesus brought shepherds, an angel, and the three Wise Men to Bethlehem to acknowledge and honor the baby in the manger.
Every story in Scripture provides a model for how God wants His Church to respond to situations, and here at Anglicans for Life we believe that one of the lessons we can glean from the birth of Jesus is that every life created by God is sacred and every life must be welcomed. While the wise men and shepherds go out of their way to greet Jesus in a humble town in an even more humble stall, I believe God is calling His Church to go out of our way to reach women facing unplanned pregnancies with the love of God.
As we gather together during this Christmas season, take time to reflect how you and your church would respond to an unexpected pregnancy of a single female parishioner or the priest’s daughter. Would you scorn the mother and child? Or would you welcome them both to your congregation and seek to help them? We as the Church must come around young mothers facing an unexpected pregnancy, because if we claim to support Life, we must support mother and child. And, no matter how the child was conceived, that child is loved by God and has been created for a purpose!
Loving people like me who made mistakes and bad choices allows you to speak hope to the hopeless, truth to the deceived, and LIFE to those hurting, desperate, and afraid. Furthermore, you can point them to the One who has loved them since the world began: their Creator, Father God. He will love them more than anyone else can, and He will never leave them or forsake them. You can point them to the One who can forgive them and radically transform their lives.
You can also express God’s love through practical resources such as diapers, baby clothing, gift cards, or volunteering to babysit. Without loving support and practical help, women feel they have no choice but abortion. BUT when words and actions of godly love are modeled, they are given the courage to choose life for their baby and embrace motherhood.
Anglicans for Life has additional resources and ideas to help the church and family come along side a young mother facing an unplanned pregnancy, and we welcome the opportunity to equip you for life-affirming outreach in your community.
Our prayer is that people would always see life as the gift God meant it to be, not only at Christmas, but every day of the year.
Written by Deacon Georgette Forney, President of Anglicans for Life.
This blog was originally published in the December 2016 edition of Forward in Faith Magazine.