Thursday, December 18, 2014

Three things Christmas tells us about human life and dignity

Christians use the Christmas holiday to remember and celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. This event (apart from everything else it entails) provides a number of insights about 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—did not happen in the manger. It happened some nine months earlier. This is what the facts of human embryology and developmental biology tell us, and it is what the scriptural accounts affirm.

Mary is said to be "with child" (Matthew 1:18) upon Jesus being "conceived ... from the Holy Spirit" (Matthew 1:20). Earlier, Mary is told she will "conceive in [her] womb ... a son, [to be named] Jesus" (Luke 1:31), who even before birth is called a "child ... [who] will be called holy—the Son of God" (Luke 1:35). Luke 1:41-44 recounts that the unborn John the Baptist (who was probably in his sixth month) "leaped for joy" in his mother's womb when he entered the presence of the unborn Jesus (who was probably a very young embryo at the time).

Jesus began his earthly existence as an embryo and fetus. So did all of us.

2. The weak and vulnerable matter just as much as the strong and independent. God himself chose to enter the world in the most vulnerable condition possible: as a tiny embryo, and then a fetus, and then a newborn baby lying in a manger. This turned ancient "might makes right" morality on its head. It suggests that human dignity is not determined by age, size, power or independence.

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 was born so that we might live. From this Christian perspective, God considers human life to be 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 Carson Holloway.

Christmas proves that human beings matter. All of them, at all stages of their lives—including the youngest and most vulnerable.