Those who talk about unplanned pregnancies as if they are a burden, an inconvenience, a trouble, should really be forced to walk a mile in the shoes of the barren and infertile, shouldn’t they?
We’ve murdered nearly 50,000,000 babies since 1972, many simply because they were unplanned. We now have this agency called “Planned Parenthood,” which, among other things helps dispose of these unplanned little ones, to the tune of over 330,000 last year alone.
What Sarah wouldn’t have given for just one of those little mouths to nurse in the first ninety years of her life. Or Hannah. Remember how she prayed so powerfully and forcefully for a child that the priest Eli thought she was drunk? Or Samson’s mother, described as “sterile and childless”? Or Elizabeth, who “had no children, because [she] was barren; and…well along in years.” Wouldn’t any of them have died for an unplanned pregnancy?
And what about the nation of Israel? Think about where they stood around the time the LORD gave them these words from Isaiah 9. Ahaz just rejected God’s offer to give them a sign and returned to his child sacrificing ways. The Assyrian hordes lick their chops at the promise of free rein on yet another territory. The Lord told the prophet Isaiah, “You will have a son, name him Mahar-Shalal-Hash-Baz,” which means “quick to the plunder, swift to the spoil,” that is, “Israel has rejected me, I’ve rejected her.”
For all intents and purposes Israel, God’s chosen people, His holy nation, His royal priesthood, His bride, is now barren, unfertile, childless, and well along in years. Beloved Israel is now Israel the unlovable, “not my people,” in the words of Hosea.
At this point, Israel, like Sarah and Elizabeth, like even young, virgin Mary, cannot possibly expect the birth of anything. Israel must resign itself to old maidhood. Worse, being well along in years, Israel lives in the land of the shadow of death. Other than taxes, that’s all she can expect. Yet that is the very place God promises to be, isn’t it? “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me.”
This puzzles us about God. He just won’t let go. Though we deserve it so mightly. Like Ahaz, we spurn God’s signs, we spurn even asking God for signs, unless it suits our selfish purposes. We’re more than happy to go our merry way and sin, but when consequences for that sin come, we quickly turn on God and say, “Where were you, Lord?”
And He says just this: “Immanuel.” God with us. And we stop dead. In Jaroslav Vajda’s haunting words, “Can I, will I forget how Love was born and burned/Its way into my heart unasked, unforced, unearned…?”
We could add: unplanned. We didn’t desire this, even though Jesus is called the desired of all nations by Haggai. We didn’t plan this. We planned to eat forbidden fruit. We planned any number of other things. We planned to wallow in darkness. But God says, “I wish to bring light.” Even upon a people walking in self-inflicted darkness.
With an unplanned pregnancy. “Hail, Mary!” the angel said. “You will be with child and give birth to a son.” That wasn’t Mary’s plan. She was just a fiancé. Her marriage was some undetermined time in the future. Pregnancy stood far from the front of her mind.
But not Simeon’s. Remember what Luke said about that elderly prophet? “He was waiting for the consolation of Israel.” Because He knew the words of the Lord. He knew the promise given through Isaiah. “For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given.” More, he believed it. He waited for this unplanned, unasked, and unearned pregnancy. And then He saw Him: wrapped in clothes, lying in the manger of His mother’s arms. And Simeon said, “Take me now! My eyes have seen your salvation!” It’s a short leap from that to saying, “Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace!”
And what if Mary had acted like so many of “mothers” in America? What if she decided that she didn’t want this unplanned pregnancy? What if she tried to dispose of Him as we’ve disposed of so many millions in our generation? Thankfully we don’t have to wrestle with that question. Because with Mary “the time had fully come.” God’s light dawned. God’s victorious conqueror had finally appeared to shatter the yoke that burdens Mary, Simeon, Israel, and us: our sin. As Jesus Himself said, from that moment “the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing.”
God planned this unplanned pregnancy. He planned it to bring peace to earth. He sent His Son, unasked, unforced, unearned, “to die, to live, and not alone for me.” And He came to reign, to accomplish our salvation, to bring us into the light, to make us children of God through faith in Him: in the miraculous birth leading to a miraculous death and a miraculous resurrection. To give us unending, and from our perspective, unplanned, peace. Thank God for this unplanned pregnancy. Amen.