Can you imagine being an engaged teenager and a virgin? This was common and the way of life 2,000 years ago. The practices and customs of that time is different than what we know and do now. Then, life as a married couple started much earlier.
Imagine being young Mary and suddenly seeing an angel! Being face to face with this brilliant angel must have been frightening! On top of that, he said some unusual things to her. He announced that she would get pregnant without being with her husband, and that she would have a son, and the angel even told her what to name him! Typically the naming was done by the father. All of this must have left her reeling from shock and surprise, but she chose to accept her calling. Mary told the angel Gabriel that she hoped all would be done as he had said. She agreed to this highly unusual gift from God. To show it, she soon left to be with her aunt Elizabeth whom Gabriel had shared she too was pregnant with a special child. She stayed with John the Baptist’s mother and father for about 3 months, up until John was born.
Mary must have have been terrified of what her fiancé/husband and his family might have thought about her when she returned from visiting her aunt Elizabeth. She had been gone for around 3 months, and now is nearly 4 months pregnant, and no doubt she is beginning to show. Her friends would gossip about her, and strangers would point fingers at her for getting pregnant before their official marriage. The thought of this pain had to be difficult to endure. How do you explain to people that this was God’s plan? Do you tell them that an angel of the Lord confided in you that you were chosen, and that you would become pregnant by the Holy Spirit, and your son would be called the Son of God?
Yet, she knew in her heart what was true. She knew she was innocent of sex before marriage or of cheating on her husband. The world didn’t know that. But soon they all heard that Joseph was keeping the engagement on and he soon married Mary. She had to trust God in this.
For Mary, there was no shame. Yet for the world, they likely shamed her. That’s what would happen today, even in the church.
My mom was 15 when she got pregnant with me. It was the result of a one-night stand. My grandfather was embarrassed about the situation since he was a Baptist preacher and worried about what others might say, as any parent would do. So my mom got sent away until I was born. Since she was so young, I was given up for adoption. She felt shame about her actions, but was glad to give me a life, and hoped that it would be a good one.
Today, I have many friends that were moms as teenagers. They’ve told me stories about their struggles in school, the friends that shunned them, their parents that were angry with them, and how they hated themselves what they had done. But the one unified thread was how they were so thankful to have brought their child into the world! Their child was a beautiful gift.
I have a friend that said when she got pregnant out of wedlock as a teenager, she walked into our former church, moved closer to the front to sit down, and was stopped by a woman. This church goer asked my friend about her pregnancy and if she was married. My friend felt very judged by her. It made her so uncomfortable that she left that day vowing not to return.
Christians are the ones that judge the most! Consider this: the next time you see a young pregnant girl, recognize that she could have easily had an abortion, but is choosing to carry the baby to term. Regardless of her past, she is choosing a future for that child. That alone is a great reason to reach out to her in love!
We as a church, as representatives of Jesus Christ, need to recognize that all people are fallen, are broken, are sinful, including each of us. If we were to admit it, we would confess that we go to church because we are in need of what our Lord does for us: heals us, helps us, guides us, provides for us, and loves us in spite of our ugly condition. We go to church because we are the sick in need of the greatest doctor. We go to thank Him for what He has done for us. Therefore, we need to stop judging those that enter the doors of God’s house and be kind, gentle, loving and encouraging. Just because someone looks different that you, or might have spiked hair, or dirty clothes, or be covered in tattoos, or even be pregnant and young, does not give us the right to feel superior or look down on them, or shun and ignore them.
Within our church building and we as the church body, is a community where others should feel drawn to seek those that serve the Living God! They should trust that since we are fallen as they are, that we will empathize with them, and guide them to the only One that can redeem and save them, Jesus Christ.
Mary understood people judging her. But she trusted that God had a plan for her life, as well as for her baby’s life, so she continued onward. When those tongues wagged, perhaps Joseph reminded her of the testimony they shared together: the angel visit, the remarkable conception, Joseph’s dreams from God, and the promise of a Savior.
This Christmas, as we prepare for celebrating the birth of Jesus, don’t judge someone by their appearance. You don’t know their story. You don’t know what the Lord is doing in their life. See them as God’s child. See them as someone that He has a plan for. Perhaps God is putting them in your life for a reason.
Food for thought: Jesus is our greatest Christmas gift!
Fun(?) facts: 3 out of 10 teenage girls will get pregnant at least once before they are 20. At least 20% of teen moms have a 2nd child within 2 years. Less than 2% of teen moms earn a college degree before they are 30. 8 out of 10 teen dads don’t marry the mother. A sexually active teen who does not use contraceptives has a 90% chance of getting pregnant their first year.
Photo by: Luciana Ferraz
***If you know a young lady who is pregnant, there are groups in your area that can help her through pregnancy and early childhood. Check out “Teen MOPS”, part of the MOPS organization. Or you can email them for a local Teen MOPS group at email@example.com