By Paul Stark, Communications Associate, Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life
The story of Christmas is about the arrival of Jesus Christ. It’s an event that offers important insights regarding human life and dignity. Here are three.
(1) Each of us was once an unborn child.
The incarnation—the coming into the world of Christ as a human being—did not actually happen in a Bethlehem manger. It happened some nine months earlier in Nazareth. We know this because that’s how human development works according to the science of embryology and developmental biology. We also know it because that’s what the scriptural accounts affirm.
Mary was “with child” (Matthew 1:18) after Jesus was “conceived … from the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 1:20). Earlier, Gabriel told Mary she would “conceive in [her] womb … a son, [to be named] Jesus” (Luke 1:31). Luke 1:41-44 recounts that the “baby” John the Baptist (who was in his sixth month post-conception) “leaped for joy” in his mother’s womb when he entered the presence of the unborn Jesus (who was probably a several-days-old embryo).
“The incarnation was effected in Nazareth [at Jesus’s conception] but manifested in Bethlehem [at his birth],” concludes Christian scholar John Saward. “The adventure of being human began for the eternal Son at the moment of his conception.”
Jesus, then, began his earthly existence as an embryo and fetus. So did all of us.
(2) Human dignity transcends age, size, ability, and circumstance.
According to the Christmas story, God entered the world as the child of an unmarried teenager. He entered the world in obscurity and poverty. And he entered the world in the weakest and most vulnerable condition possible. He was a tiny embryo, and then a fetus, and then a newborn baby lying in a manger.
This suggests that the worth and dignity of a human being cannot be determined by age, size, ability, or circumstance. After all, God himself was young and small and dependent. God himself lacked sophisticated mental and physical abilities. God himself was an unborn child conceived in less-than-ideal circumstances.
None of those characteristics have anything to do with value. We have value, rather, because of who and what we are.
(3) Human life is extraordinarily valuable.
Christmas is part of God’s larger plan to rescue humanity because he loves us (John 3:16). Jesus came so that we might live. According to this Christian perspective, God considers human life, which he made in his own image (Genesis 1:27), immensely precious and worth saving at tremendous cost. “Christian belief in the incarnation is thus inseparable from belief in the objective, and even transcendent, value of the human race as a whole, and of each human person as an individual,” writes University of Nebraska professor Carson Holloway.
Christmas, then, shows that human beings are really, really important. Not just some human beings, but all human beings, at all stages of their lives and in all circumstances, including the youngest and most vulnerable—those who have not yet been born.