Summary: Chrismtas Realities - Part 4. What happens when God interrupts your plans and your world gets turned upside down?

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Christmas Realities – Part 4

Fourth Sunday of Advent

December 18, 2005

Luke 1:26-38


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.

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