Amid the tinsel and lights of the Christmas season, you may find Nativity displays on fireplace mantels, store shelves, and front lawns. Those displays remind us of Jesus as an infant, “wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” Many Christians think of this moment as the beginning of our Savior’s earthly presence as both God and man. But like every baby before and after Him, Jesus’s life on Earth in the flesh actually began months before birth.
The angel Gabriel explained how Jesus’s earthly life would begin when he told Mary she would miraculously conceive “the Son of God” while she was a virgin. After hearing this world-changing news, Mary went “with haste” to visit her relative, Elizabeth. When Mary greeted Elizabeth, the Bible reveals that Elizabeth was “filled with the Holy Spirit” and recognized the divinity of Jesus by referring to Mary as “the mother of my Lord.”
A close reading of Luke 1 strongly suggests that this meaningful exchange occurred during the embryonic period of Jesus’s development — before He was even old enough to be called a “fetus.” Yet Elizabeth called Him “my Lord” because that is exactly who He was even in that early stage of Mary’s pregnancy. Elizabeth also referred to Mary as a “mother” — not a “future mother” or “mother-to-be” — because motherhood begins the moment a child is conceived.
In response to Elizabeth’s profound statements, abortion supporters who are reluctant to acknowledge the humanity and value of children in the womb may be tempted to say: “But Jesus is special.” How very true! But while His divinity is unique, His humanity in the womb teaches us something about all mere mortals.
Our Savior did not begin living among us as an adult, a teenager, a toddler, or an infant. Instead, it is notable that our Lord decided to begin His human experience when science says all human lives begin. As geneticist Dr. Jérôme Lejeune put it, “Life has a very long history, but each of us has a very definite beginning — the moment of conception.”
Beyond Jesus’s decision to dwell with us as an unborn child and Elizabeth’s recognition of His Lordship during Mary’s first trimester of pregnancy, the Christmas story also highlights the precious humanity of children in the womb through its description of another unborn child.
When Mary visited Elizabeth, both women were pregnant. The child growing within Elizabeth was John the Baptist, who years later would see Jesus and say, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”
While in the womb, John could not articulate such a powerful statement in the presence of his unborn Savior, but he could experience joy and respond to that emotion in a manner that is common among young children. And that’s exactly what he did. As the Bible explains, when Mary greeted Elizabeth, John “leaped in [Elizabeth’s] womb for joy.”
During this season, countless people read about these amazing pre-birth moments in the lives of Jesus and John while overlooking the lessons they impart for today. As a result, many celebrate Christmas while holding the false and deadly belief that elective abortion is morally acceptable.
Even as they sing, “Joy to the world, the Lord is come,” they overlook the implications of the fact that an unborn child was among the first to experience that joy, leaping in the presence of his Lord who — though hidden in Mary’s womb — had certainly come. So they continue believing the lie that an abortion removes a meaningless blob of cells without considering that meaningless blobs do not leap for joy.
Many gratefully reflect on Jesus’s willingness to be born among us while failing to realize that Jesus was fully God and fully human in the manger and in the womb. Birth did not transform Him. Indeed, the hands that Jesus used to bring a healing touch to a blind man and break five loaves of bread to feed thousands would have been the hands destroyed in an abortion had Mary obtained one.
Ultimately, those who view unborn children as problems and abortion as a solution do not understand the beautiful truth that God’s love for the world extends to the born and unborn alike. Our Creator knit each of us together in our mother’s womb, and we are “fearfully and wonderfully made” in “the image of God.” In fact, the angel Gabriel declared that John would be “filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born,” which tells us that God loved an unborn child enough to make him a temple of the Holy Spirit. And because God loves children in the womb, we are to love them as well.
Tragically, the compelling pro-life message of the Christmas story will continue to go unnoticed by many until more people shine light where there is darkness. So during this Christmas season and beyond, will you love your born and unborn neighbors enough to be that light? The need is great, and lives hang in the balance.
As you help people see Jesus’s heart of love for children in the womb, you can remind those you share with of the Lord’s great love for them. Jesus experienced human life in the womb and in the manger with an executioner’s cross in mind because He “so loved the world.” His atoning death and miraculous resurrection allow all sinners — including those who have participated in the sin of abortion — to turn to Jesus for forgiveness and healing, to recognize and accept His Lordship, and to live in heaven with Him forever.
That is a Christmas message everyone should hear, so go and let your light shine.
“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. … For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given.”