I'm Pregnant





Wanting time to simultaneously go fast and stand still. Hoping for the test to give results.Wondering how five minutes could take so long.AND then…the results appeared.

I am pregnant.

My mind rushes with thoughts and emotions. This is what I had prayed for. This is what I had hoped for. We are having a BABY! I am excited, happy, and terrified all in one moment because let’s face it: having a baby changes everything.

This is where we find Mary just before our passage.

For Mary there was no pregnancy test. No discussion with her husband about the planning, the trying, the outcome. Nope. For Mary there was an Angel and he said,

Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and

give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be

called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his

father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his

kingdom will never end. (Luke 1:30-33)

I look at the test again, just to be sure. I pull out my teddy bear stationary, and write the following note:

Dear Daddy,

I am so excited to see you in nine months.Mommy loves you and I love you.

Love, Baby

I leave the note on my husband’s pillow. I couldn’t wait to tell him so we can walk this journey together. The anticipation and excitement are terrifyingly overwhelming.

BUT Mary, sweet Mary, who had found favor with God was in a different situation. How exactly do you explain to your fiancé that you are pregnant with someone else’s baby? Mary sought out her relative Elizabeth who had also turned up pregnant unexpectantly. Immediately, Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit and pronounces blessings upon Mary.

Boy was THIS baby going to change everything. I cannot conjure up the ocean of emotions which must have been surging through her thoughts. But we do have her song, an amazing praise to the God who is in control.

When I have thought about Mary in the past I always pictured a young, scared, new mom. I felt sorry for her.BUT, when I read her song of praise or sing it (thank you Randy Gill for arranging it so beautifully), I hear a song of quiet strength.

And Mary said:

“My soul glorifies the Lord

and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,

for he has been mindful

of the humble state of his servant.

From now on all generations will call me blessed,

for the Mighty One has done great things for me—

holy is his name.

Mary chose to acknowledge the honor she had been given with this pregnancy. She praised God for her circumstances, which from the world’s point of view looked bad. Mary knew this awesome burden, was also an awesome honor. God had chosen her to be His servant.

God has chosen each of us to be His servant to bring peace to the world. We can choose to accept our calling and praise Him for the honor we have been given each day or we can grumble and complain about our burden. Too often I find myself not recognizing the awesome honor I have been given to be a servant of the living God. 

That first pregnancy God gave me a beautiful, perfect, amazing daughter. She is strong willed, expressive, stubborn and so smart. She is an amazing gift from God. May I be reminded of the great honor that has been given to me to raise her for Him.

This advent season, may we each cultivate the attitude of Mary and praise God for the burdens/opportunities we have been given. May we remember the blessings which have been bestowed upon us and may we praise Him for the honor we have in bringing about love, joy, and peace to the world. Our situations might sometimes look bleak, but may we remember the humble servant Mary and her strength as she brought our Savior into this world.

Jessica Knapp Youth Minister, Mountain Ave Church of Christ Tucson, AZ

Because We Seek Each Other

Luke is often my favorite storyteller in the Gospels. I like how he brings in certain stories, what he chooses to include or where he places focus. I’m glad he tells us this part of Mary’s story with Elizabeth in the way he does. Luke 1:39-56, feels like sisterhood to me.

“. . .she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”

We’re told these two women are related, likely distant cousins, but they had a relationship with each other that included friendship, guidance, support and love. This young girl and this woman “well along in years” found the kind of connection that drove them toward each other when big things happened. It had to feel like such a gift for Mary when dear Elizabeth called her “blessed” in the midst of what felt confusing and scary. Mary “hurried” to her side to share in this joy of motherhood and God-breathed miracles because they could lean on each other, and Elizabeth’s own baby began the celebration by leaping for joy. I’ve always hoped there was a lot of laughter and tears in that visit. Aren’t the best times with our sisters full of laughter and tears? Everything that is both good and troublesome comes pouring out when we gather, so we can sort out the madness and find our way forward together.

“. . .My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. . .”

I know lots of people stumble over this moment as Mary replies in song. We brush it away as Luke’s storytelling, because surely it didn’t actually happen this way. I hope that isn’t true. I hope Mary sang from the joy and gratitude of her heart in the presence of her precious friend and relative because my family is that weird. Sometimes I need to know our weirdness has an older place in the world. We sing to each other. It’s rare, and almost never our own newly inspired lyrics, but it’s a way we communicate because song often captures emotion better than sentences. When the people I love are overflowing with what God is doing or what is happening in our world, we take to poetry and verse. We let music bridge the gaps our voices can’t.

I totally get Mary in this moment, and I love that history has immortalized her words for worship. Just as she walks ahead of our waiting to receive the coming King. She opens the door for vulnerability regarding the complexities of His coming, too. There is so much to thank God for in the moment of knowing we are called “blessed,” and there are also so many questions. Mary takes up the role of worship leader and draws us to the presence inside her. She brings forth the One who will lead us down many roads in life, and takes the lead herself.

“And Mary remained with her about three months and returned to her home.”

Then the story ends with long visits and goodbyes. Isn’t that the way of sisterhood? We stay longer than we planned if needed. We see our dear ones through to the next step if possible and then we go on about the other parts of our lives—a little emptier and a little fuller all at the same time. Elizabeth’s seclusion in the early part of her pregnancy must have made this time so much sweeter for them. Darling Mary, while facing her own very big life upheavals, stays for three months. She stays with Elizabeth. This passage doesn’t tell us whether Mary stayed through the time of Elizabeth’s labor or not. The story is not simply about the babies in their wombs. This passage paints a picture of two women who seek each other out when God speaks into their lives. They spent time with each other, in the presence of God, when they needed it most. Mary’s choice to travel at this point in the story helps me remember to seek out my sisters when God is speaking. She guides me toward maintaining relationships that matter instead of pulling away when life is a little too big. I’m so grateful to call her a sister in the way that all women link arms and lean on each other.

Dana Spivy Children`s Minister Maury Hills Church Columbia, TN

Peace Born through Shadow

Every day thousands of people leave home, enter waters of chaos in a dubious boat, and seek new beginnings elsewhere. These huddled masses bob on waves where whales lurk beneath and waters condensate above to form clouds the shape of burning buildings and torpedoes.

There is no peace there.

The torpedoes fall as rain, waves capsize boats, and humans enter the depths. Be certain, no one perfect falls into those waters, save the children. An alcoholic bobs along in a life vest along with the elderly woman who stole her neighbor’s husband forty years prior. A widower with a violent streak sinks as quickly as the young woman who sold herself to pro cure the money to gain passage on the boat.

Every soul is muddled, and the sea is a sort of unprecedented chaos. Broken people come in contact with the insurmountable power of water praying for new birth.

In the beginning, the Spirit of God hovered over the waters. It was dark. Chaos reigned, and God flew with an outstretched arm to suppress the turmoil. Calm fell upon the face of the earth so that new life could be born.

Much later, a teenage, middle-eastern girl, Mary, is confronted by a messenger of God and is justifiably distressed through and through. Greatly troubled. It’s a phrase only used here, but implies chaos in the soul. The messenger consoles her by telling her that she is highly favored, and that God is with her.

His message: In ten months the Prince of Peace will emerge through a breaking of the waters.

Mary’s obedience to this painful transition will change humanity as did Eve’s disobedience. The birth of the curse will be reversed through the birth of the Resurrection. All of human history rests on this moment.

Name him Jesus, Mary. Feed him healthy food, Mary. Redirect his toddler tantrums, teach him how to choose good friends, and make sure he goes to Hebrew school. Raise up God, Mary, and His kingdom will never end.

All I need is your virgin womb, says the Lord.

Humans hold a lot from God -- time, money, the second cloak we bought on sale at Macy’s last year that’s only been worn once.

We’re especially possessive of our bodies. Let us design them with good looks, no scars, no burns, disfigurements or diseases. We choose to whom we offer them. My body. My choice.

This is why rape is the ultimate violation, and rightly so, for our bodies are sacred spaces, temples of the living God.

Yet God asks for Mary’s virgin womb, to which Mary replies, “I am the Lord’s servant.”

She is highly favored indeed.

This divine/human conception narrative wasn’t new. Often ancient gods disguised themselves to trick and impregnate women. Yet, the God of Creation put these fables in their place by meeting this young woman on her turf, identifying Himself clearly, and coming to Her gently. This was not another divine rape story, another “Haha, I tricked you for a good time” tale with Zeus.

No, this was the God of the chaotic ocean who is simultaneously sheltering fragile souls in the cleft of the rock with His hand. This is YHWH, gentle and good.

Even so, this true and kinder divine conception put Mary in grave danger. A middle-eastern, single, pregnant woman could be destroyed. Her betrothed could leave her to fend for herself with no option but to board a boat for a foreign land, praying for peaceful seas and welcoming hearts on the other side of the Mediterranean.

Surely all of these thoughts ran through Mary’s mind, yet the Spirit of God stretched over the chaos. The power of the Most High overshadowed her. It’s the same covering with which God enveloped Jesus at the transfiguration. It was a Divine embrace through which the holy one would be born.

In Advent, God comes near.

And as in every season, God asks for everything. Even so, God never takes the most intimate places of us without a purpose.

The discomfort of a donkey ride in the third trimester, the side glances at the market, the blood and water expelled on hay in a pauper’s cave in the agony of childbirth…it was all to save the world.

Life was born through chaos because one middle-eastern girl surrendered all under the enveloping cloud of God.

As the weather cools and snowflakes begin to swirl, may we notice the turmoil around us-places where God’s covering can birth shades of spring. Maybe she’s the new widow living next door, or the homeless with agitated minds, souls emerging out of waters where Arabian soil was dredged in hasty departures. . . To them may we courageously say, “God is near,” and overshadow them with His love. May we see each person this Advent season as one for whom the Prince of Peace was born through the virgin womb of a young middle-eastern woman who was willing to give all to God, and through whom, the New Creation killed the curse.

The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.

Tiffany Dahlman Spiritual Director and M.Div. student at Asbury Theological Seminary Worships with the Helen Street Church of Christ Fayetteville, NC

Radical Acceptance

The visitation (Luke 1:26-38)

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.

We know her well as the mother of Jesus, but her own story is not often told in our churches. Even the phrase “virgin Mary” feels strange and foreign on our tongues, and we have allowed our fears of ascribing too much significance to Mary to rob us of learning about and from her witness.

Yet she is presented by Luke in this passage as a young woman who finds favor with the Lord, a servant of God, and the first believer in the good news concerning God’s visitation in human flesh. Who is she? Her name is Mary. She is a young virgin from Nazareth, betrothed to Joseph, who gives birth to the Savior of the world and provides a model of responsive, submissive faith.

Mary is presented in Luke’s gospel as the central figure in the infancy narrative of Jesus. She is introduced as a “virgin, betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David” (1:27). We learn of her virginity before we hear her name, a manner of introduction (virgin, widow, wife, etc.) not uncommon in the ancient world. But in her case, her virginity underscores of miracle of birth that is to take place.

Thus, with this introduction of Mary, her story begins. As it unfolds we learn that she is of “lowly estate,” a “handmaiden,” and poor. Hers is a portrait of a powerless person favored by a mighty God. She is young in a world that respects age, a woman in a world controlled by men, and poor in a highly stratified society. Yet we discover that she is strong, and her strength comes from a submissive and obedient heart and the power of the Holy Spirit.

The angel appears to her—not in the temple in Jerusalem, the city of David—but in the obscure village of Nazareth of Galilee. We should not be surprised then, that the Angel’s greeting perplexes her: “Greetings, favored one. The Lord is with you (1:28). As she ponders in her heart what sort of greeting this is, the angel reveals the mystery of the incarnation and the meaning of the grace with which God has favored her. He calms her fears, and tells her once more that she has found favor with God. Then in intimate terms he describes the role of the Holy Spirit in the birth of Jesus!

Surely to a young girl from Nazareth who is just beginning to ponder the mysteries of life and birth and marriage to Joseph, the prophecy of the angel concerning this pregnancy is a lot to ponder, and no doubt the scandal it brings with it strikes terror in her heart. Thus, her response to the angel strikes at this reality: “how shall this be, since I am a virgin?” is not unlike Zechariah’s when he learns that Elizabeth will bear a son: “How shall I know this? For I am an old man and my wife is advanced in years” (1:18). Each expresses the incredulity of these announcements and reflects the limitations and impossibilities associated with his or her own reality in the flesh. The angel’s answer is simply, “For with God nothing will be impossible.”

Mary’s response to the angel provides the basis of a model for all who hear the good news of God’s salvation and accept the call to discipleship. “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word” (1:38). As if in answer to her own question, “How can this be?” she answers, “Let it be.”

Mary stands in all her lowliness and womanhood, her poverty and status as a handmaiden. She postures herself as the servant of the Lord, which echoes the opening stanza of her hymn “for he has regarded the lowly estate of his handmaiden. . .” (1.48). Her words are rich in meaning and reveal the heart of this humble servant of the Lord “. . .let it be to me according to your word.” Do we not think that Mary understands the implications of the angel’s words? Her objection that she is a virgin surely reveals that she understands the scandal of her pregnancy and the reproach she will bear in a world of honor and shame? Yet this young woman who has no husband fully embraces the scandal of faith and answers, “let it be.” Thus the image is drawn of Mary of Nazareth: model believer and servant of God, who responds with radical acceptance without reservation to God’s plan for the salvation of the world. Can we not embrace Mary as a model of discipleship for the church and stand with her as we say, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word” (Luke 1:38)?

D’Esta Love is chaplain emerita at Pepperdine University and a member of the University Church of Christ in Malibu, CA.