Pondering all these things in my heart
This Advent season, I keep thinking about the young unwed Mary and the baby Jesus. I've sung songs and seen church plays and read the Biblical account of the birth of Christ countless times. The shepherds. The wise men. Simeon and Anna in the temple. No room in the inn.
I know the story well. Perhaps too well. So well that I have never been as aware of the tiny chain of life that connected Mary to her baby boy as I am this year. Which is odd because both of my children, on the occasion of their first Christmas, "played" the baby Jesus in the church play. Held aloft by the man playing Simeon. Held close by the young person playing Mary. My babies.
I imagine Jesus as a newborn baby. Helpless. Hungry. Sleeping in an animal stall. Cared for by an unwed teenaged mother and a confused, though trusting, step-father. What would we think of her today? Her story of an immaculate conception? Even if she never explained it that way, if she simply showed up in our neighborhood, at our church, in our circle of friends as a pregnant teenager, would we, would I make "room in the inn" for such a child as this?
Perhaps I am pro-life but welcoming a pregnant teen into my life, into my family would be a little too embarrassing and difficult to explain because of my steadfast support of "abstinence as the best form of birth control." Why is she pregnant?
Perhaps I am pro-choice but welcoming a pregnant teen into my life, into my family would be a little too embarrassing and difficult to explain because of my steadfast support of the right to choose not to have a baby at such a young age. Why is she pregnant?
Perhaps I would give a few dollars, buy a few packs of newborn diapers, take over a few meals, and return to my insulated and uncomplicated life and inwardly thank God that none of my daughters turned up pregnant and none of my sons admitted to getting anyone pregnant.
Many years ago, I was invited to the baby shower for a young woman I knew who was pregnant "out of wedlock." I knew her and her family from the church we attended at the time. Great family. Beautiful young mom-in-the-making. She had taken a year off from college to come back home and have the baby. As her belly grew, so did her magnetic attraction - at least for me. Every time I saw her, I would make a beeline to her, ask if I could touch her belly, ask her how she was doing, tell her how much I LOVED being pregnant, and promise her that if she ever wanted to talk or had any questions to give me a call.
Anyway, as her pregnancy drew to its close, I received an invitation to her baby shower. When I arrived at their house, I was a little embarrassed and felt a little out of my element because I didn't know anyone in attendance other than the pregnant woman and her family. Later I pulled her Mom aside and asked as politely as I could why that was the case. She said that I WAS THE ONLY PERSON AT THE CHURCH WHO HAD EVER ACKNOWLEDGED HER DAUGHTER'S PREGNANCY. Everyone else would greet her and greet their family "as usual," but no one ever asked about the pregnancy or the baby. No one. Needless to say, her words brought tears to my eyes and sorrow to my soul.
All those staunchly pro-life, sign-waving, abortion-protesting folks (one person in the church had even spent time in jail because of pro-life activities) couldn't figure out a demonstrable way to support and encourage the daughter of dearly beloved friends who had chosen to embrace the gift of life. It was as if that gorgeous, growing, round belly wasn't housing a new life with a soul of its own. A short while later, a beautiful baby boy was born to that brave young woman. As unimaginable as it was for me that people could ignore her pregnancy, it had to have proved impossible to ignore the squirming, gurgling little bundle of wonder she proudly carried into church a few weeks later.
Remembering her story makes me rethink a similar situation 2000 years earlier when a beautiful baby boy was born to another brave young woman. I wonder if anyone at her synagogue or in her little town of Nazareth acknowledged her pregnancy. Or if they also turned their backs on a young woman facing the biggest choice/crisis/moment of her life. I find myself pondering these things in my heart in an entirely new way.
Like I said, this Advent season I'm thinking a lot more about Mary, the teenaged mother, and her precious world-changing baby Jesus.