December 18 – Emergence

By: Dr. Sherry Warren, Minister for Women's and Gender Justice, UCC National

Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Holy One appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins" (from Matthew 1:18-25).


“Just as healthcare, education, and housing are central to reproductive justice,
abolition of systems of oppression is equally important to reproductive justice.
There is hope for an alternate framework of liberation
that encompasses all of these practices of freedom.”
– Starlina Sanchez


Our ideas about the nature and purpose of parenthood and childhood have changed enormously over time.  From moments where children were birthed to sustain military might to eras when children were not celebrated but seen as a perfunctory result of biology, every generation has had to wrestle with what it means to bear a child. Even today, for many families, a child can be a source of worry or financial strain, perhaps even an obligation to an unhealthy relationship. People have many reasons to be concerned about a potential pregnancy.

Mary, too, must have been worried about her unplanned pregnancy and its surprising origin. She lived in a time when she had few options, and many of the laws and customs surrounding child-bearing made her especially precarious.  But an abolitionist dream showed this family a different way to freedom.  So, Mary bore Jesus into a complicated context in which he shared his wholeness with others who longed for a world of justice and compassion.

In our day, child-bearing is no less complicated, but we have abolitionist dreams to inspire us, too.  If abolition is about nurturing freedom, then abolitionist parenthood must be about the freedom to “maintain personal bodily autonomy, have children, not have children, and parent the children we have in safe and sustainable communities.”  We cannot return to a time of female bodies being the property of others. We cannot outlaw bodily autonomy and force babies into a world that doesn’t provide nurturing communities where they can thrive. From Mary’s story and Jesus’ life and ministry, let us take up our challenge to create a world in which every parent and every child is given opportunity, love, safety, and a healthy community in which to grow. That is our call, and our responsibility.


Womb of Creation, as we prepare for what is being birthed among us in this season,
remind us that the “path to liberation is embodied.
Empower us to create a world where every child-bearer feels your freedom
and knows the support of their own flourishing,
and every child born feels your love
and knows the support of community that rejoices in their birth.
For this wholeness and flourishing, we pray, in, with, and through Jesus. Amen.


Artwork: “Emergence” by Yohana Junker (discover more at:


“Abolition is about presence, not absence. It’s about building life-affirming institutions.” – Ruth Wilson Gilmore

Take Action

Abolition is Reproductive Justice

View resource

Stay Connected. Nourish Movements.

Sign up to receive alerts about new stories and resources. You’ll also enjoy our Join the Movement newsletter, featuring changemaker profiles, reflections on current events in the movement toward racial justice, and more. Get sneak previews and information about upcoming events, workshops and webinars.