As we prepare to celebrate the Lord’s birth with our family and friends, let us consider the question “Where did Christmas start?” Most would confidently answer, “On Christmas morning, in the manger of course!”

If we, as faithful Christians, were also quizzed “Where was Jesus first worshiped and His Lordship announced?” that answer is not as clear, is it?

Both are actually very important questions when we consider the origins of our faith and the divine means by which our Savior came to us. But the answer to each is different than most assume.

No, Jesus did not arrive in our midst in a manger. And His Lordship was not first proclaimed by John the Baptist at the river Jordan in their adulthood.

Christmas and Christian worship started in the womb. Full stop.

And these major events in our faith (not to mention the history of world itself) started with two women no one had ever heard of. Mary, a humble young virgin, is visited by the angel Gabriel, informed she would give birth to the very Son of God.

Mary, rightfully confused, asks, “How can this be, since I have not known a man?” Gabriel tells her “The Holy Spirit shall come upon you” and you shall carry “the holy one” who “will be called the Son of God” in your womb.

She gives her consent to God’s plan to bring salvation to all who receive it.

(Credit: Henry Ossawa Tanner, The Annunciation, Wikimedia Commons)

God Himself orchestrates this simply because He desired it to be so.

The coming of the Son of God took place in the sacredness of a woman’s womb. That is a profound statement about motherhood, the profound wonder of femininity, and the marvel of where human life begins.

Every life begins where Christmas and Christianity began. And yes, Christian worship began in the womb as well.

At this striking news of her divine pregnancy, we are told Mary “arose and went with haste” to go see her cherished relative Elizabeth, some 90 miles away. Elizabeth was in the 6th month of her own miraculous pregnancy. Her womb had closed for business long ago, but God intervened in a special way of preparation for the Savior. Of course, her baby was Jesus’ cousin, John the Baptist.

Yes, Christmas began in the womb, but also in the context of family as well.

Christ is first recognized, received, proclaimed, and worshiped as two miraculous mothers – Mary and Elizabeth – simply great one another. We read in Luke 1:41-44

And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb.

And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 

For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.

(Credit: Henry Ossawa Tanner, The Visitation, Wikimedia Commons)

Appreciate here that Christ the Lord is worshiped for the first time by two people at the same time. One is very old, the other super young. One is inside the other.

It happened in a woman’s womb, marked by a “loud cry” from a mother.

Two women and two members of the Holy Trinity set this scene. The Holy Spirit came upon Elizabeth, and she proclaims her in utero nephew is the Lord of creation. And the Lord’s forerunner is there, doing what forerunners do, proclaiming the Lamb of God within Mary’s womb.

So much is taking place with so many in this scene, it overwhelms the mind. Is this setting not more holy and profound than the manger itself?

And it happens in the very simple, private domestic setting of two kins-women, expectant mothers, happily greeting one another. This cannot help but put the glory of family itself in a new perspective for us.

But let us also be sure of this also. The Christmas story is an intensely divine message that what takes place in the womb is profound, absolutely real, and has its own sacredness.

Therefore, all Christians have no choice but to be enthusiastically pro-life and pro-family. Both are fundamentally central to how and where Christianity started.


About The Paintings…

The two paintings featured here, the Annunciation and the Visitation, are both painted by the first African-American painter to achieve significant critical acclaim: Henry Ossawa Tanner.

The Annunciation is housed in the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Visitation at the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts in Michigan.