In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah, and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 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. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.” And Mary said,
“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior…”
Studying scripture is a process for me. Sometimes you look, pray, come back and look again, rinse and repeat to find what God wants to reveal. God is all about us doing some seeking in His word and He makes no bones about the discipline of it. However, there are times we come to His word and we never make it past a single verse or passage. There’s just too much to see, too much to collect to move on. It’s like, He decided to leave all the presents out in the open under the tree; like He decided He wasn’t even going to bother hiding them with paper this year.
That’s what Luke 1 is for me—unwrapped gifts sitting right out in the open. So much is going on in this passage. If you haven’t read it lately, I would encourage you to read it in its entirety, especially in light of the season.
The old woman, Elizabeth knows! The whole thing starts out with a bang. The meeting, right out of the blocks, starts with a prophecy. You know this story. The young one, Mary, is a virgin. The old woman, Elizabeth, is barren— neither should be pregnant and both moms couldn’t be more surprised. The whole thing should be impossible, but then Gabriel’s words come ringing from earlier in the very same passage:
“For with God, nothing shall be impossible.” Luke 1:37
The first gift right out in the open for me was a question: How in the world did the old woman know that Mary had the Son of God inside of her? Crazy, right? And so, right off the bat we have two miracle pregnancies and a prophecy and we’re just getting started.
I haven’t, until this Christmas season, attempted to reconcile the divine events happening in this little meeting between these two ladies. Frankly, it’s the best kind of ridiculous and I’m pretty sure I’m just scratching the surface. That’s the beauty of scripture, though. It has layers that can never be exhausted.
Let’s take a look at this passage and maybe it’ll hit you like it hits me.
Ok, for starters this is pre-Acts 2, so technically, according to scripture, the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, hadn’t come to stay yet. But something apparently happens when Jesus, the God-child, meets John, the man-child. Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit, even though “the Spirit hasn’t come yet.” I’ve been discussing this with my buddy, Kevin Jones, and he pointed out another gift just sitting there right out in the open. He said, “Does it hit you like it hits me that Mary was filled with Jesus, the physical Son of God, while Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit of God?”
This is so fun, y’all! This was no ordinary meeting. No wonder John leapt in the womb! According to Jesus, there has never been a man like John the Baptist. So, when the greatest man meets the Greatest ever, what happens? Joy! Holy joy, that’s what happened. And that isn’t all.
You see, the remarkable joy of Elizabeth and Mary are understandable. Child birth is a big deal in any culture, but back then and especially in Jewish culture it was a BIG deal for a woman to have children. So their joy is completely merited, but scripture does not stop there. It says that John actually leapt in the womb for joy! This might be the best passage against abortion I have ever heard. John somehow had joy inside his mother’s womb! And as if that weren’t enough, Mary immediately begins the Magnificat! You know, Mary’s famous song? Well, it turns out that Mary is so overcome with joy, that scholars believe that she borrowed the song of Hannah (Samuel 2:1); another mother who believed God for great things and was granted a son, named Samuel, which is also a testimony to the importance of child birth to these ladies. But I’ll tell you what, the most tender gift for me in reading this passage just might be Mary’s own personal addition to Hannah’s song of praise. You see, Mary’s borrowed song of joy suddenly takes a turn into something else. She makes it her own as she begins speaking prophecy over her unborn child, Jesus. She says:
“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour…”
Did you catch it? Jesus is not ‘Saviour’…not yet. He hasn’t even been born. What in the world! It’s like God was breaking all the rules for this impromptu meeting. A virgin carrying the Son of God in her womb, singing Hannah’s ancient joy-song, while spouting prophecies about her own unborn Son? Even the third person of the Trinity fills the nooks and crannies of what was Elizabeth’s barren womb, exciting John, the baby prophet, to leap for joy at the presence of his cousin who will one day take away the sins of the world! What kind of God does this? This is a moment! This is an Isaiah 7:14 moment! And you know what else is remarkable about this moment to me? The gift of God’s favor over Mary and Elizabeth. To me, it is some of the sweetest grace extended in scripture that it wasn’t disciples chosen for this divine appointment. It wasn’t the apostle Paul.
O no, before Paul, disciples, apostolic authority, or the modern church as we know it, there was a girl and an old woman in the hill country of Judah with a secret. It would be these two women who would stand at the very precipice of Emmanuel, God with us!
What kind of God spends love like this? What kind of God would hold the sacred delight of His own heart, in secret reserve, for two moms in a fly spec, no name village? The same God who holds you!
If you have been wondering if what you are doing really matters; let me tell you, if it is for God, then it does! If this Christmas you feel small or insignificant, think of two moms that were never celebrated in their lifetime, but chosen by God to celebrate giving life and birth to the mystery of the ages…just the two of them.
What you do matters! How can I be so confident in that statement? Because who you are, in Christ, matters. Let that sink in this Christmas, and remember, obscurity is where God Himself was born. Just ask two moms, Mary and Elizabeth…
“…Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!”