And Mary (Jesus’ mother) said,
“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.” Luke 1:46-55 (NRSV)
Those of us who know the story of Jesus’ conception aren’t terribly surprised by Mary’s song of praise and thanks for the impending birth of Jesus that we know as the Magnificat. She was blessed like no other woman has been blessed- she was chosen to be the earthly mother of God-in-the-flesh. None of us can claim that our own children are the very Son of God. Any of us would be deeply awed and humbled by such an honor- or would we? In the real world, Mary’s situation was not an easy one.
Mary faced some very real possible consequences connected to her unwed pregnancy. She could very well have been stoned to death had she been accused of adultery. (Leviticus 20:10) Had it not been for an angel of God coming to Joseph to tell him that Mary’s child was of God and not from a forbidden liaison, (Matthew 1:1-18) he would have quietly ended their betrothal. A woman so shamed did not have good opportunities for marriage, and in that day, a woman’s survival depended on being able to marry well. Yet God made a way, so Mary would not have to go through this experience alone. Even so, Mary, and especially Joseph, would have to have endured snickers and aspersions among friends and family, and no doubt there were “mathematicians” in the community who would be very aware that the timing of Jesus’ birth wasn’t quite consistent with the timing of his parents’ wedding.
Today unplanned or unwed pregnancy isn’t as culturally unacceptable as it was in Biblical times, but women still face hardship in many instances when pregnancy happens at a difficult time or under difficult circumstances. While there is much to be said for the protective boundaries God gives us for our behavior, we all are prone to venture outside of those boundaries. (It’s called sin, folks… and we all sin in one way or another.) We all make mistakes, and mistakes in this realm of human behavior are very common. How we react to the consequences of our actions can decide if an unplanned child is a mistake, or a cause to break into praise like Mary does in the Magnificat. God can take our tragedies and mistakes and turn them into blessings and joy, if we surrender ourselves and our situations to Him.
How are we supposed to know who that child may become, or what gifts he or she has to contribute to the world?
Sometimes in a troubled pregnancy situation, the mother or child has health issues. Sometimes the father of the child wants nothing to do with either the mother or the child. Other times women who choose life for their unborn children face opposition from the child’s father, or even from their own parents. Unplanned pregnancy almost always brings economic and social burdens, even when mother and child are in good health. Bringing a child into the world is a major life upheaval under the best of circumstances, let alone with a backdrop of hardship or abandonment.
In difficult situations- whether we contributed to them, or we came into them through no fault or planning of our own- can we still praise and magnify the Lord, and trust that He will make a way?
Sometimes situations that appear to be hardships or burdens- or even tragedies- are blessings in disguise, ways in which God comes to us with healing, divine provision, redemption and new life.
May our souls also magnify the Lord.