“The Meeting of the Moms” (Luke 1:39-45)

Midweek Advent Vespers
Wednesday, December 19, 2018

“The Meeting of the Moms” (Luke 1:39-45)

Over these three midweek Advent services, we’ve been looking at readings from Luke chapter one, which is the lead-up to the Christmas Gospel itself in chapter two. Back in our first midweek service, we heard the angel Gabriel announce to Zechariah that he and his wife Elizabeth would have a child named John, John the Baptist. Then last week we heard Gabriel announce to Mary that she would give birth to Jesus. Now today these two storylines intersect. Mary goes to visit her relative Elizabeth. It’s the account of “The Visitation,” that is, the visit of Mary to Elizabeth, while both women were expecting their very special children. I’m calling this story “The Meeting of the Moms.”

“The Meeting of the Moms”: Aged Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist. And young Mary, the mother of Jesus the Christ. Both women were granted these children under very unusual circumstances, to say the least! Elizabeth was well advanced in years and had been unable to have children. Mary was not yet married, and she became pregnant as a virgin in a most miraculous way. Both women received their special roles in God’s plan with humility and faith. Both women rejoice in realizing what God is doing through them. So today we’re dropping in on the greatest baby shower of them all, the meeting of these two expectant mothers, Mary and Elizabeth. And while we see “The Two in the Room,” let’s not forget “The Two in the Womb,” John the Baptist and Jesus.

Elizabeth is about six months along, and Mary has just conceived. Our text in Luke begins: “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.” Now here there is an interesting parallel with something that happened in the Old Testament. In 2 Samuel we read about the time when David was wanting to bring the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem. Now what was so special about the ark of the covenant? Well, it was the dwelling place of the Lord, the place where the Lord located his gracious presence in the midst of his people to bless them.

Now in our text from Luke, it says that Mary arose and went into the hill country of Judah. In 2 Samuel, it says that David arose and was bringing the ark into the hill country of Judah. Mary enters Elizabeth’s house and remains there for three months and brings great blessing to that household. David brings the ark to the house of Obed-edom, and the ark remains there for three months, and the Lord blessed Obed-edom and his household. Quite the parallels!

You see, it’s almost like Mary herself is a human ark of the covenant, because she is bearing the Lord’s presence within her. She’s carrying the Christ child wherever she goes. And where Jesus is, there is great blessing. Mary is bearing within her the Word made flesh, who comes to make his dwelling among us. “And the Word became flesh and ‘tabernacled’ among us.”

Mary enters the house and greets Elizabeth. As she does, something remarkable happens: The baby leaps in Elizabeth’s womb! Remember what the angel Gabriel had said about John: “He will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb.” And so here, even inside Elizabeth’s womb, “John the Baby” can sense that he is in the presence of the Messiah whose way he will prepare. For everywhere that Mary went, the Lamb was sure to go–Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, as John himself would proclaim years later.

Then Elizabeth, herself filled with the Holy Spirit, tells Mary, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!” It’s as though Elizabeth is saying: “Mary, you have been given a great honor, to bear the Savior of the world. I mean, I am honored to bear my son, the forerunner of the Lord, but you get to give birth to the Lord himself! What a blessing!”

Elizabeth continues: “And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” Hear the humble faith in Elizabeth’s words. She realizes that she is not worthy of such a visitation. At the same time, she realizes that her Lord is coming to her, and this means great blessing. Such humble faith is truly the work of the Holy Spirit.

Do you have the humility and the faith of an Elizabeth? Do you recognize that you are not worthy to have God grace you with his presence? Do you realize you’re a sinner, that you have broken God’s commandments, that you deserve judgment and not a gracious visitation from the Lord? I hope you do know this. For Jesus comes into our midst precisely to forgive sinners like you and me and to bring us his blessing.

As with Elizabeth, the Holy Spirit works in your heart through the gospel, so that you trust in Jesus as your Lord and Savior. This gospel tells you that this little child came as our brother, in the flesh, so that he could do the only job that saves us. Jesus came to keep God’s law perfectly on our behalf. He came to offer the one holy, perfect sacrifice that atones for all our sins. He suffered and died a sinner’s death on the cross, taking the punishment we deserve. Jesus came to be our peace and our life. He did this when he rose victorious over sin and death, and now he grants us blessing and joy in their place. Yes, when Jesus enters the house, you get all of these blessings with him. And this is enough to make anyone leap for joy!

Elizabeth continues and tells Mary: “For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.” So here we’ve got John filled with the Holy Spirit, Elizabeth filled with the Holy Spirit, and Mary, whose child was conceived by the Holy Spirit. In each one of them, the Holy Spirit is pointing to Jesus and producing joy.

That’s how it is with us, isn’t it? The presence of Christ among us brings us great joy. The gospel sound that greets us here in church lets us know that Jesus is here, present. And so we rejoice. The Holy Spirit is doing his work in our hearts, pointing us to our Savior Jesus Christ, and nothing could be more joyful than that. John leaped for joy, he was so glad to be in the presence of Jesus. Now some of us here may be past our leaping prime, but the coming of Christ in our midst should get at least ten Lutherans a-leaping.

Elizabeth has one more word for Mary: “And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.” Faith is what we’re seeing here, faith all around. The faith that Elizabeth had, to know that this was no ordinary child Mary was bringing into the room. And the faith of Mary. Elizabeth commends Mary for her faith, that she believed the great things the angel had told her about the son she would have.

Dear friends, the meeting of the moms is a meeting of two great women of faith. Both Mary and Elizabeth stand out as wonderful examples for us. They believed the Lord’s words, and they received his gifts. The Holy Spirit produced this faith in them. And now the Spirit will do this same work in you. The Holy Spirit will lead you to trust the words and promises of God. The Spirit will work a Mary-and-Elizabeth-like faith in you.

There are a whole bunch of miracles that we see in our text today. The way that both Elizabeth and Mary got pregnant, of course. But also the way that both Mary and Elizabeth believed and rejoiced in the good news of the coming Savior. That too is a miracle. Even little John got in on the believing-and-rejoicing act. Anytime anyone is given the gift of faith and joy in the Lord, that is a miracle of God. It’s the work of the Holy Spirit, working through the Word, to produce a saving faith and a blessed joy in our hearts.

Today we have heard the story of the visitation of Mary to Elizabeth. It was the meeting of the moms. But don’t forget those boys! Mary and Elizabeth are the two in the room, but Jesus and John are the two in the womb. So they meet also, Jesus and John do. Because everywhere that Mary went, the Lamb was sure to go. Even in the womb, Jesus brought great blessing and joy to the home of Elizabeth and Zechariah.

And Jesus brings blessing and joy to our homes, too. When you gather with your family this Christmas, Jesus will bring the joy with him. And when we gather here in God’s house, with our church family, Christ will surely be present to bless us with his gifts. Wherever Mary’s baby boy goes, he brings the blessing and the joy with him.

Published in: on December 19, 2018 at 1:51 pm  Leave a Comment  
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