Why don’t pro-life evangelicals have much to say about the Annunciationor the unborn Jesus? Ted Olsen raises that question in an intriguing article at Christianity Today :
One might expect American evangelicals to be among the most enthusiastic celebrants of what is known as the Annunciation. For starters, it focuses on two issues that theologically conservative Protestants have long defended against theological liberals: the historicity of the Virgin Birth, and Christ’s unique divinity. In a theological sense, the Annunciation could be of greater significance than Christmas.
“It connects directly to the incarnation, while Christmas (whatever the true date) falls around nine months after the incarnation,” says pro-life writer Randy Alcorn . “It is basic Christian doctrine that Christ became flesh at the moment the Holy Spirit overshadowed Mary, at the moment of fertilization. He became human at the exact point all others become human, the point of conception.”
And so the Annunciation’s implications are intensely political as well as theological. Few days on the Christian calendar, and few passages in Scripture, are so relevant to the abortion debate. For example, Alcorn notes that since Mary “hurried” to see Elizabeth (Luke 1:39) after Gabriel’s visit, it’s likely that Jesus was not yet fully implanted in Mary’s womb when Elizabeth’s unborn son, John, “leaped for joy” (1:41-44). That, he suggests, helps to eliminate hairsplitting over when personhood begins.
Olsen includes a number of interesting comments on the issue by evangelical and pro-life leaders. For the record, I agree with N.T. Wright, Darrell Bock, Francis Beckwith, and Roger Olson. The only one I really disagree with is Scott McKnight, who claims, “The Annunciation is not celebrated because it is about Mary and because the Roman Catholics make so much of it. It’s that simple. The strong pro-life people are also often the strongest anti-Catholics, though they’ll cooperate with Catholics against abortion.” I don’t think I’ve ever met a strongly pro-life evangelical that is truly “anti-Catholic.” In fact, it is the pro-choice Protestant that tend have the most open animus toward Catholicism.
My take is that the deemphasis is an ecclesiastical blindspot: Many evangelicals are members of non-liturgical congregations and are simply uninformed about the liturgical calendar.