By Frances Kissling
I love Christmas. I love the secular parts of it – presents, a big meal with friends or family; Macy’s window; Season’s greetings/ Merry Christmas – I refuse to get hung up and stingy about what people want to say in wishing the best to each other. I love all the new music and the traditional carols and I put money in the Salvation Army kettles. And I love the religious part of it. As a child I had an advent calendar and every day I opened a different window in anticipation of the birth of Jesus. There was a nativity scene on a table in our living room and the rough hewn trough looking thing that served as the crib for the baby Jesus was empty till Christmas morning. All the baby Jesus’ were so lovely; bisque figures with fine features a beatific smile. I knew he loved me and loved him. And so when I saw the “Here He Comes” ad which showed the baby Jesus waiting inside his mother’s uterus in a 3D sonogram I just burst into happy laughter. I want one to hang on my wall. I want it to be my Christmas card.
Bravo to www.churchads.net in the UK for doing it. Babies are wonderful. Being pregnant and expectant – awaiting the birth of a baby you want must be among the most special things in the world. And the sonogram on the refrigerator of mom and dad and the expectant grandparents is the modern symbol of all that is good about deciding – or – accepting the unexpected new person who will be part of your family. It also brings to mind the fact that all sorts of people are having babies – traditional married couples, gay couples, women on their own – that’s part of the modern understanding of the birth of Jesus. Here come all the babies and all the families that welcome them. Poor people uncertain of how they will care for the baby are having them and loving them and often finding ways to care for them. Women in poor health consent to risking their lives to bring much wanted children into the world. God bless them all.
I don’t want to forget or ignore the 10 million children under the age of five who die each year because they were born into poverty and ill health or the 300,000 plus women who die in pregnancy, but I do want to celebrate the millions and millions of births each year that are modern miracles of faith.
And then, some silly people who are obsessed with abortion tried to spoil a good thing. Pro-life Wisconsin decided to be the grinches who stole Christmas. The wanted to interpret these joyous billboards as an anti-abortion message and instead of allowing people to feel the joy and inspiration and holiness that the birth of Jesus’ symbolizes they wanted us to think about abortion.
This happens every Christmas. It’s a tough time for supporters of abortion rights who have just as much excitement and take just as much joy in expecting a baby in their family as does everyone else, but end up feeling defensive and grumpy about the baby Jesus being hijacked for political gain. Some pro-choice secular Grinch, at the National Secular Society in the UK had to go and complain that “The image is too specifically associated with pro-lifers to be seen in a benign context. They should go back to angels and cribs.”
Well, I’m hoping that those of us who are pro choice here in America will allow ourselves to enjoy this modern depiction of the baby Jesus awaiting entry into the world in his mom’s uterus. It’s a great and happy and anticipatory message. Mary and Joseph, certainly a nontraditional family and their precious baby boy are a perfect symbol for the complex modern world in which we live.
Frances Kissling is Visiting Scholar Center for bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania and former president of Catholics for Choice.