A popular meme at Christmas states “One Unplanned Pregnancy Saved us All.” The intended point is true enough, however let’s make that lovely point in a theologically accurate way. To start with, due to what people usually mean by “unplanned pregnancy,” calling Christ the product of one implies Mary had either been raped or had slept with Joseph, accidentally got pregnant, and lied about Christ being God’s child and herself being still a virgin.
To fix the issue, I propose a slight rephrasing, the title of this post, “One Inconvenient Pregnancy Saved us All.” This also expands the point, and I hope my rephrasing to inconvenient will be carefully considered by anyone pregnant in circumstances that make pregnancy most inconvenient, even if the pregnancy had in fact been desired before the bad circumstances arose.
However, while the timing of Mary’s pregnancy was far from convenient in her culture, it wasn’t unplanned. God had been planning it for an eternity. Thanks to the prophets, God’s people had been expecting the Messiah’s birth for a long time, too. So God and God’s bride, Israel, had both been planning to have this child. All that was hidden from Israel was exactly when* and which literal woman would carry their child and raise their child. Israel also glossed over a few Biblical prophecies about the Messiah while Israel excitedly planned out exactly what Messiah would be.
*The book of Daniel did prophesy accurately how many years it’d be until Messiah’s birth, but it doesn’t specify the exact day and hour.
Granted, Mary did begin planning for herself to be the Messiah’s mother on rather short notice. And Joseph wasn’t planning for his bride to have a child with the Holy Ghost beforehand at all, but he was not the pregnant one or the child’s biological father. Besides, the greater lesson, to all of us, is Mary’s total faithfulness to God, her willingness to radically change her plans at God’s request via Gabriel on such short notice.
And, when God sent Gabriel to Joseph, Joseph likewise accepted the challenge to change his plans.
Betrothed couples like Mary and Joseph were not engaged in the modern sense; they were already legally married. In their culture, you signed the marriage license first, then came a waiting period where the bride remained in her father’s house while her bridegroom prepared for her. After this, he came for his bride, and they had the wedding and the wedding night.
I respect it is not planned to some people’s thinking for Joseph and Mary, on such short notice from God, to change their plans during that waiting period, to him coming for his bride sooner than he’d planned previously, but it wasn’t an unplanned pregnancy, and they were married. The waiting period was not a culturally convenient time for her to get pregnant, but it was the best time for God’s purposes, as it was the only time then that God’s son could be both born from a virgin and be born legitimately within wedlock.
That’s said, let’s do make a great side point to the Christmas story and encourage moms to carry inconvenient pregnancies to term. Let’s do admire how they did the right thing despite the likely nasty accusations, when both truly had done no wrong. Let’s also remember this Christmas, at its core, their story is a story of faith. Their example to us all is one of being willing, in any situation, to change our plans if God asks us to, even it’s on short notice and inconveniences us.