Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The Good News of the Annunciation: Why Pro-Life Christians Should Celebrate the Annunciation

March 25 marks an important date for pro-life Christians as it marks the Annunciation of Mary regarding her pregnancy of the Christ Child.  March 25 marks the beginning of Mary's nine month pregnancy.*  Recently Christianity Today has asked the question if the Annunciation is more important that Christmas regarding its pro-life implications.  In the article, a number of Biblical scholars weighed in.  Pro-life leader Randy Alcorn remarked, for example:
It connects directly to the incarnation, while Christmas (whatever the true date) falls around nine months after the incarnation . . . It is basic Christian doctrine that Christ became flesh at the moment the Holy Spirit overshadowed Mary, at the moment of fertilization. He became human at the exact point all others become human, the point of conception.
The purpose of the article is to highlight the difference of emphasis between the three main traditions within Christianity:  Roman Catholic, Protestantism, and Eastern Orthodox.  The article is interesting and gets us to rethink the issue of the Annunciation.  Certainly the motivation behind the Annunciation is worth our time especially in a post-Roe vs. Wade era. 

At the heart of the celebration is not about abortion, but about the pre-incarnate Jesus leaving His throne in glory and taking upon Himself the form of a slave (Philippians 2).  Just as Christians get distracted with presents and Santa Claus during the celebration of Jesus' birth, there is a temptation to be distracted by wrong doctrine regarding Mary (especially on the more Roman Catholic side) and the implications of the sanctity of life.  Any celebration of the Annunciation should be about the gospel.  Unless we make a "bee-line to the cross" (as Charles H. Spurgeon once said), we have missed the point of the event.  Christ did not take upon human flesh to teach us love or to heal the sick; He took upon the form of a man in order to propitiation the righteous wrath of God.

When I was younger, I once wondered which was more important; Christmas or Easter?  My confusion was centered on the importance of the cross and resurrection in our theology and yet our heavier emphasis on the birth during Christmas.  It became clear to me at a young age that Christmas is a month long celebration while Easter is maybe only 3.  Fortunately I later discovered that without the cross and resurrection, the Incarnation would have been less festive.  As Christians if we fail to bring glory to the cross of death and the empty tomb of life, we are wasting our time.

However, we must admit that the Annunciation does have incredible implications in our current debate regarding abortion.  If there ever was a woman who had reason to second guess her pregnancy it was Mary.  Who would actually believe her?  Here she is pregnant and yet still a virgin engaged to be married.  The scandal could cost her life.  Let us not forget that in 1st Century Rome abortion and infanticide was common (though less among the Jews who believed all life to be sacred similar to Christians today).

Instead of seeking relief from her present struggles, she remained firm in her convictions (and innocence) and went ahead with the pregnancy.  Was Mary ready to be a mother?  She likely had her doubts since she remained unmarried at the time of her conception.  Let us also not forget that how young she likely was.  Could she afford the Child?  Not on Joseph's salary.  What would Joseph think?, she must have wondered.  And yet Mary knew immediately that the Child in her womb was not an accident to be discarded but a gift to be celebrated.  She did not see in her unborn Child a mass of tissue, but an answer to her people's many prayers for salvation.

Furthermore, the Annunciation says a lot about how God views life.  Jesus came to Earth by first being conceived.  Admittedly He could have come a number of other ways free from Original Sin, and yet He didn't.  The significance of conception, birth, childhood, adolescence, young adulthood, and adulthood seem incredibly important to God.  If it wasn't, then He would have never had Jesus go through the many stages of man.  Also, what I find interesting in all of this is the fact that the Gospels treat the Child immediately upon its conception just as Divine or sanctified as they do when He is born.  If Jesus was not the God-man at conception then why all of the fuss?  If Jesus was not worthy of life and part of God's divine plan until His birth then the Gospel writers (especially Matthew and Luke) wasted a lot of ink.  It is interesting how the many psalms found in the Birth Narratives took places prior to Jesus' birth.

So is the Annunciation worth celebrating even for Protestants?  I certainly see why not under correct doctrine.  And as Christians living in a world obsessed with murder and death, how can we ignore this important moment.  The birth we celebrate in just nine short months is just as Divine as He is now.  And the Child that was destined for the cross on that first Christmas morning was equally destined at His annunciation.

There is no such thing as accidents when God is involved.  Jesus was conceived in a home and in a relationship that by today's standards made Him more acceptable for abortion.  His parents were poor, His town was insignificant, His government was ruthless, and the rumors surrounding His birth would have made Him unwanted.  And yet God still had His purposes and let us celebrate and praise our Father for giving us His Son on that wonderful day when Gabriel shared the good news.

Happy Annunciation Day!

*Admittedly, Mary likely did not give birth to Christ on December 25.  I am not implying that Jesus was conceived exactly on March 25 or that He was born on December 25.  But since December 25 is the day we universally celebrate the Incarnation, it makes sense to back track nine full months and celebrate Christ's annunciation.

For more:
Christianity Today - More Improtant Than Christmas?
Christian History Blog - From Jesus to Mary and Back Again: The History of the Annunciation
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