The Gospel this time of year recounts the most amazing leap of faith in history. Mary says “yes” to God. Last Thursday’s Gospel reading recounted when Mary went to see her cousin Elizabeth after the angel Gabriel told Mary about God’s plan for her. After hearing or reading this many since I was little it finally dawned on me this week that Elizabeth knew the truth. Before hearing more than a greeting, she understood who came through the door that day – carried in her cousin’s womb. How could she know?
During those days Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed are you who believed – that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.’
It doesn’t say in Luke that Elizabeth was awaiting a visitor. Still, when Mary came in and greeted Elizabeth the infant, John, leaped for joy. Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, which probably explains everything that happens next, and she responds with fascinating words. She calls Mary blessed and identifies the child in Mary’s womb as “my Lord.” How did she know that Mary was carrying Jesus? Did Mary send a camel-gram from Nazareth to the hill country with a recount of Gabriel’s visit? Not likely. Much more likely is that Elizabeth is able to recognize the presence of Jesus because of the Holy Spirit moving in her. Elizabeth is spot on with how she identifies Jesus, not as merely someone special or holy, but as Lord.
Recognizing life’s value
Maybe this ability to identify Christ is something she’s developed through prayer over the years. Maybe it’s simply a gift from the Holy Spirit in that moment. It’s definitely a God moment to recognize Christ. Now, whether this is exactly how the scene went or this depiction is Luke’s way of capturing the moment really doesn’t matter. God inspired the moment and Luke in writing about it, so the truth is there. In any case, it’s mind-boggling to think that Elizabeth could recognize the presence of the Lord in an instant. Like everyone on the planet at that time, she had never met Him in person. If only people in our country could see the value of life in the womb like her. Was she expecting something spectacular? Had she been clued in ahead of time by the Holy Spirit? How does Elizabeth comprehend the incredible presence of Jesus living in the womb of His mother?
What’s equally amazing is that John recognizes the Savior as well. Only six months in the womb, a potential target for abortion in today’s world, John is able to identify and react with joy when in the presence of Jesus. One could say that they recognized Him because the Holy Spirit filled them with wisdom. After all, that was required for Peter to identify Jesus as the Messiah. However they knew, they embraced the truth and experienced the joy of His presence when Jesus arrived. They were able to see Him for who He is and be joyful.
It is often so easy to miss an opportunity when the Lord comes to us, hidden in some way. Maybe He is in the womb, as he was when Elizabeth first encountered Him. Maybe He is someone from a foreign land trying to make a better life for their family, desperate for a decent life. Maybe He is the parent at the store, frustrated and struggling with news of cancer in their family, who can’t juggle kids and shop another minute. I know I find it very difficult to recognize the Lord when He is cloaked in the garb of the everyday. I love hearing about situations where people do recognize Him. If you have a moment where you saw Jesus in someone, please share it briefly below.
Let us do like Elizabeth and John and leap for joy when Jesus arrives on Christmas. He is our Lord.