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I would be devastated if my Christian teenage daughter became pregnant outside of marriage. It wouldn’t be the unforgivable sin, I know, but in a world of enticements we are never out of danger. Today’s young Christians are more vulnerable to Satan’s attacks than ever before and in need of the power of resistant grace.
I can’t help wondering what it must have been like for Mary’s father to learn that his beautiful, believing, teenage daughter had fallen pregnant? His world, like hers, changed forever the day her first child was conceived in her womb. She had maintained her virginal purity, but became pregnant nonetheless. She would never, not until her dying day, be free from the stigma of those who were ready to taunt Jesus with the words: “We were not born of sexual immorality” (John 8:41).
Jesus, of course, was not born of sexual immorality; but the self-blinded religious leaders couldn’t see that. Locked into faithless natural reason, all they could see was a young teenage girl suddenly expecting a baby. There was a man in the picture, but he was not the child’s father. “The Son of Man,” as Ralph Erskine puts it, “was no man’s son.” Joseph, of course, proved himself to be every bit as noble as Mary; he had planned eventually to marry her, but was prepared to abort his plans so that Mary could keep her baby. How different than so many modern couples who are prepared to abort their baby in order to keep their plans.
And there, in an infinitesimally minute corner of Mary’s body, something bigger than Mary’s world was stirring. God the Father had prepared a body for God the Son through the power of God the Holy Spirit. In the empty darkness of Mary’s womb, the Spirit of God had hovered over her, and the last Adam was formed out of His mother’s dust. “Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness: He was manifested in the flesh” (1 Tim. 3:16).
So Mary is the chosen vessel in which Jesus is carried for the first nine months of His humiliation, her body the factory for His, her pregnancy full of the potential of His life and the salvation of the world.
I often think of Mary, and I seem to see in her a profound and deep symbolism. In some ways she mirrors the whole of the Old Testament, which was pregnant with Jesus at every point. The prophets were filled with the Spirit of Christ (1 Peter 1:11); the old writings witnessed to Him (John 5:39); the Psalms praised Him (Acts 2:29-31; Heb. 1:8); the covenant promises were fulfilled in Him (Heb. 13:20).
The Old Testament, like Mary, anticipated the day when the holy child would appear, no longer a promise but a reality, not a potential but an actual presence. That is why the Old Testament enriches Christian faith and leads us into the heart of the Savior Himself.
I also imagine Mary as a symbol of the church. Her life was the theatre of the Holy Spirit; He overshadowed her (Luke 1:35), so that the angel could report to Joseph: “that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 1:20). The same Holy Spirit is now gifted by the risen Lord to His own people, so that the church now becomes the theatre of the Spirit’s work, glorifying Christ.
The Spirit was the agent through whom Jesus was conceived and His life sustained in the womb; yet all the time it was the baby, not the agent, who was prominent in the thoughts of the mother. In the same way the Spirit is at work in the church, that Christ might be glorified (John 16:14).
Within the fragile body of this young post-resurrection church was a power that would turn the world upside down. Our weak, fragile, delicate Christianity needs to re-discover its potential: there is a power that has impregnated the people of God, which means that the church carries the Savior to a lost generation. God had glory in Mary through Christ for nine months precisely so that He would have glory in the church and in Christ through all generations, according to the power at work within us (Eph. 3:20).
Christ has been formed in us, as we have been begotten in Him. He is in us, the hope of glory (Col. 1:27). This is the great mystery: that as He filled Mary’s womb, so He fills our souls, and we are called to make Him known.
As Christians, we are in Christ and Christ is in us (Rom. 6:8 Gal. 2:20; Col. 3:3). We carry the Savior with us wherever we go, and we must tell others what God has done for us and what God has done in us. We too can sing the Magnificat: “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant…he who is mighty has done great things for me” (Luke 1:46–49).
Could there be a greater resolution for us to make than to tell others of the great things the mighty God has done in our lives?