Christmas incites observers to contemplate the overthrow of the worldly order on behalf of the oppressed. The pro-life movement, in order to protect the unborn, sustains the seditious nature of Christmas and enlivens Christmas hope.
Casting down the Mighty
Sometime during the nine months when she carried Jesus in her womb, Mary visited her kinswoman Elizabeth. Complying with the historical practice of his day, Luke records the event with a song he judges most appropriate to the occasion. Now known as Magnificat—after the Latin translation of its first word—over the past two millennia Mary’s proclamation has become one of the most important songs of the Church. It includes these lines:
He has shown the strength of his arm,
He has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
And has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
And the rich he has sent away empty.
The Magnificat is seditious, but not because Mary or the Church work toward the overthrow of a particular regime. Instead, Luke rather transparently invites his readers to anticipate, and indeed celebrate, how Jesus’ birth exposes the futility and vanity of worldly power and wealth. Jesus’ coming fulfills countless prophecies made over the centuries that oppressive governing of God’s people would eventually give way to the kingdom of God.
The unborn child Jesus heralds a new government from God. Though the rich and strong may hear the good news with misgivings, the oppressed and weary will have all the more reason to rejoice at its coming.
The Unborn Child as Threat & Promise
Prolifers and pro-choicers know the seditious truth: Every child poses a threat to the world as we know it. Mothers’ bodies are occupied, careers are interrupted, families are reoriented. Whatever our plans for ease or comfort, we need to re-think them. Prolifers at their best respond to the challenge with gratitude and hope; pro-choicers at their worst respond to the new life by extinguishing it.
The same drama plays out cosmically when Mary conceives in her body the Son of God. Herod, self-styled “king of the Jews,” is less than thrilled to learn that the Magi believe a new king of the Jews has been born. The Roman procurator will wring his hands over whether Jesus’ kingship threatens the empire. The priests reckon Jesus a disturber of the Temple’s peace. The most religiously observant find their authority challenged by Jesus, who dares to speak with breathtaking subversion. But to the migrant Mary and Joseph, to the poor shepherds, Jesus’ birth is cause for great joy. Later, his preaching of the kingdom of God inspires the people with hope.
By working to build a civilization that protects the unborn both in law and in fact, prolifers sustain the sedition of Christmas. They expose the ungodly hubris of seeking to control life even to the exclusion of new life. And by pursuing the good of the unborn over and against those who scorn them, they remind us that no one, however inconvenient or seemingly unwanted, is unworthy of life.
But with the woes of sin and strife
The world has suffered long;
Beneath the angel strain have rolled
Two thousand years of wrong;
And man, at war with man, hears not
The love-song which they bring;
Oh, hush the noise, ye men of strife,
And hear the angels sing!
And ye, beneath life’s crushing load,
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow,
Look now! for glad and golden hours
Come swiftly on the wing;
Oh, rest beside the weary road
And hear the angels sing!
—Edmund Hamilton Sears, “It Came upon the Midnight Clear”
May God rekindle this hope in each of you and among all the faithful through this Christmas season!