The Rev. John Polite, pastor, Granada Hills Baptist Church, Granada Hills CA; member of the Board of Trustees, American Baptist Seminary of the West; ABSW ‘97
Jumping for Joy
39 In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, 40 where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit 42 and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. 43 And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? 44 For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. 45 And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.”
46 And Mary said,
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
What began as an ordinary visit between two expecting cousins turned into a charismatic church service.
Elizabeth, who was carrying a miracle baby of her own, who would be named John, had been barren all her life. Her husband, Zechariah, unbelieving of the word of the Lord when informed his wife would indeed bare a child, was rendered speechless by the angel of the Lord for his lack of faith.
Elizabeth’s cousin Mary, who was chosen by God to conceive, carry, birth and raise God in the flesh, was not as far along in her pregnancy, but no less excited.
These two contrast greatly. Elizabeth was the wife of a high priest, whose position would have been an honorable one. Yet being advanced in years, coupled with an inability to bear children, would have made her of low societal status because she had no children—sons in particular. Elizabeth was trapped in a culture in which women were considered worthless if they had no male offspring. Mary, on the other hand, was just a kid, of no prestige at all, from a farming community, and betrothed to a stranger who could have been three times her age, and with child—outside of marriage! This too would have made her a social outcast, and even a criminal, had it not been for her betrothed Joseph’s temperance and belief that his fiancé’s pregnancy was not betrayal, but of the Holy Spirit.
Yet what they shared in common, besides their kinship, is that they were both eagerly expecting sons who were conceived by divine intervention. Elizabeth would be the mother of the greatest prophet since Elijah. Thirty years later he would be heralding Mary’s son as Jesus began his public ministry.
And it appears that before they were even born, they knew who each other was, or at the very least, John knew who Jesus was. For we’re told that John leapt in his mother’s womb as Mary, pregnant with Jesus, came to visit her “cuz” Elizabeth. This prompted both Mary and Elizabeth to engage in an impromptu praise session as they both thanked God for the Son who was to be born to redeem humankind.
May your advent be filled with the same joy, thanksgiving and praise that John, Elizabeth and Mary had at the anticipation of the coming of Jesus!
Holy One, our God, may your divine awareness of our circumstances create within us the trust and courage that Elizabeth and Mary exhibited in the face of staggering odds, that we might life in your Joy. Amen.