December 23, 2011 ( – Christians celebrate Christmas as one of the greatest feasts of the year, second only to Easter.

It’s a time of great exaltation as we welcome the birth of our Saviour and prepare in a special way for His impending return at the end of time.

But it could seem odd to those around us that pro-life Christians would celebrate the coming of Christ by recognizing His birth, while at the same time we pray and labor day in and day out to show that children enter the world at conception.


Why wouldn’t we instead celebrate Christ’s Incarnation, when He was conceived in Mary’s womb?  I expect not a few pro-lifers have had this question cross their mind at this time of year.

To be sure, the Incarnation is celebrated in many churches, including the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern rites, on March 25th, quite appropriately nine months ahead of Christmas.  But while the Incarnation (also known as the Annunciation) is observed in such cases as a great feast, it’s certainly not afforded the solemnity and pomp of Christmas.

And that’s the way it should be, I’d say.

Conception is hidden, private, intimate.  When a couple realizes they have conceived a child, they are naturally filled with joy, but that joy is held between them.

As they reveal the happy news to family and friends, or the child makes herself known by the mother’s blossoming belly, the child’s presence is revealed more and more until she is ready to declare herself to the world.

While our joy at the conception of a child is often no less than at her birth, it is usually less conscious.  It takes time for this amazing gift to strike us.

So, quite naturally, we reserve our greatest celebrations for the child’s birth.

And we’ll notice that it’s the same in the Gospel.  Christ was conceived in the privacy of Mary’s chamber as she accepted her great vocation from the angel Gabriel, but He then lay hidden, revealed only to Joseph and those around them.

It was at Christmas that He was revealed to the whole world in all His glory.  The angels sang out His arrival and the sky lit up with the Star of Bethlehem.  The shepherds, the wise men, even the animals, came to bow down and worship their newborn King.

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to all men of good will.”

Focusing our rejoicing on a child’s birth does not deny the fact that she came into existence at conception, but affirms it.  Because conception is so hidden and intimate, birth is the natural time for the public celebration of the child’s entry into the world.

I would urge all Christians to make a special point of celebrating Christ’s Incarnation on March 25th according to the Church’s centuries-old tradition.  But in celebrating Christ’s birth at Christmas, keep in mind that we are at the same time hearkening back to that defining moment when the God of the universe deigned to become one of us.


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