Summary: Chrismtas Realities - Part 4. What happens when God interrupts your plans and your world gets turned upside down?
AN UNWANTED GIFT:
WHEN GOD MESSES UP YOUR PLANS
Christmas Realities – Part 4
Fourth Sunday of Advent
December 18, 2005
As the Baby Boomers begin to move into retirement age starting next year we are no longer talking about a baby boom, but about a baby bust. In fact some have called the younger generation the Baby Busters because there are so few of them as compared with earlier generations. And this is not just an American trend. From Japan to Germany to the United States, we are seeing fertility rates dropping.
Now it is important for you to understand that when I talk about fertility rates I am not talking about the number of women who are fertile – who are physically capable of reproduction – but rather about the rate at which women actually are reproducing. In the United States back in 1920 the fertility rate was 3.2 children per woman. Today that rate has dropped to only 2.1 children per woman on average. In Europe things are even worse. In 1970 the fertility rate among European women was 2.8 but over the last 35 years it has dropped to only 1.5 children per woman. That rate of birth is not high enough to maintain the current level of population.
Why is that? Lots of reasons. More and more women are waiting until later in life to start having children in order to pursue careers of their own and if you get a later start odds are you aren’t going to have as many children.
The cost of having and raising children is causing many couples to have fewer children. According to the Department of Agriculture it will cost a middle-class American family over $200,000 to raise a child born this year through the age of 18. And that does not include the cost of college nor does it count forgone wages.
However three sociologists from the University of Minnesota have suggested a different theory to account for couples having fewer children. They think that part of the reason for the baby bust is the fact that today we enjoy having a strong government pension program. These programs have reduced the need for couples to have children who will grow up and in turn take care of them in their old age. These sociologists believe that there is a direct correspondence between rising retirement benefits and dropping fertility rates.
Whether people are choosing to have fewer children because children no longer factor into their retirement planning or because children would hinder their career planning the fact remains that more women are having fewer children than ever before (at least in Europe and North America and Japan).
And so the reality is that more and more women have found themselves with unplanned pregnancies – unwanted because it messed up their plans – it messed up their educational plans, vocational plans and financial plans. However, this predicament is nothing new as we find our text for today taking us back in time some 2,000 years as a young woman discovers she has an unplanned pregnancy that was about to mess up her plans.
Today’s scripture lesson comes from Luke 2:26-38.
26In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee, 27to a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David. 28Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!”
29Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean.
30“Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favor with God! 31You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. 33And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!”
34Mary asked the angel, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.”
35The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God…
38Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” And then the angel left her.
We see several interesting things taking place during this exchange between Mary and the angel Gabriel. First, we see that…
1. GOD INTERUPTED MARY’S PLANS.
About nine months before the first Christmas God intervened in human affairs and radically altered Mary’s plans with an unwanted gift. She was planning on marrying Joseph, a descendant of King David, who made his living working in Nazareth as a carpenter. Matthew tells us that he “was a good man” (Matthew 1:19). He wasn’t rich, but would have made a comfortable living. She planned on getting married, having children and raising a family. It was a good plan. It was a comfortable plan.