At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!”
When is the last time you leaped for joy? Maybe we should leave the leaping to younger people, but when was the last time you were so overcome with joy that you couldn’t contain yourself? I suppose the birth of a child or the announcement of an engagement might inspire that sort of joy. Some of us may feel overwhelming happiness when our team wins a championship. There may be a few other examples of joy-kindling experiences in your life. What about your relationship with Jesus? When was the last time you were deeply moved by God’s presence? It could happen during worship or prayer or as you read scripture and discover a new facet of God’s grace.
This passage details two significant and touching encounters. First, Mary and Elizabeth greet one another, perhaps after not being together for a long time. They were relatives, perhaps aunt and niece or cousins once or twice removed. What they shared in common in this moment was not only their pregnancies but also faith in God’s promises about their unborn children. Mary carried the Christ-child. Elizabeth carried, at almost full-term, John the Baptist. These two women were chosen to usher in the fulfillment of God’s promise of salvation. The other extraordinary meeting was shared by the two infants, children whose bodies were still being knit together in the womb and yet whose souls already knew their purpose. John recognized the coming of the Savior and leaped for joy.
In many ways, our faith and devotion to Jesus mirror John the Baptist’s ministry. He came to prepare the way for Jesus to enter people’s lives, and in the same way, we also prepare people to meet the Savior as we share Jesus’ love and message. John called people to repentance, preached God’s word and then stepped aside so Jesus could take center stage. The ministry of the church follows that example, proclaiming truth and pointing people to Jesus, who alone can save the lost. We should also follow John’s example of joy in the presence of the Savior. When we gather for worship or sit alone to pray, we should feel the joy of being near Jesus. When we read the Bible and hear God’s voice speaking into our hearts, we should rejoice in his love and wisdom. When we feel the Spirit moving and witness his work in someone’s life, we should celebrate God’s grace. When we gather around the Christmas tree and the Advent wreath, we should be filled with the joy of knowing Jesus was born to save.God of Grace and Glory, fill me anew with the joy of Your holy presence and the assurance of Your unending love. Make my joy overflow to others so they will be drawn to Jesus, in whose name I pray. Amen.
Pastor Mike Mirakian