In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.”
Have you ever felt a baby kick whilst still in the womb? It’s a pretty amazing thing. The thought that there is a small human growing in there, a baby that hears, moves, reacts, eats, and sleeps is mind-boggling. It’s also worth noting just how terribly vulnerable this tiny child is. In the womb, the baby is literally completely dependent upon its mother. If she doesn’t eat right, it doesn’t. If she drinks alcohol or smokes, so does it. If she uses drugs, so does it. If she decides it is unwanted, sadly, it doesn’t get a say in the matter. There’s nothing more vulnerable than a small child. Once the baby is born, the helplessness continues and, in fact, gets a bit worse in my opinion. Now, we must add to the list, the need for touch, affection, diaper changing, and basic care. The child is no longer permanently attached to its mother, and so now the mother (and hopefully father and others at this point) must choose to continue to care for it. Then, as the child begins to grow, it begins crawling, and soon, walking. Now the child’s status is deceptive as we confuse mobility and words for understanding and autonomy. If anything, these little movers that we often call toddlers are now more vulnerable in that they can really get themselves into trouble that they cannot get themselves out of! Babies are dependent little creatures, helpless in so many ways.
In this passage the unexpectedly and miraculously pregnant Elizabeth meets the unexpectedly and miraculously pregnant Mary. Elizabeth’s baby, John, kicks (or perhaps leaps) in the womb at the mere proximity to Mary and her unborn child Jesus. Two helpless children and two very important, blessed, and unexpected soon-to-be mothers. One old woman and one that is not barely old enough. Two inexperienced mothers. So many reasons to say, “no,” and yet here they are. What a strange way to start a revolution. The sheer vulnerability of this plan always trips me up. So many things could have gone wrong. Why would God risk everything by entrusting the plan for salvation and redemption into the hands of these women? Besides, even if both did an absolutely stellar job, a mother, even the best mother, cannot prevent every bad thing from happening. Some things are simply out of our control. And certainly a helpless baby can do nothing to defend or even provide for itself. This plan seems sketchy at best. And yet, this is precisely how God chose to redeem and save the world, reconciling all of creation back to God’s self, paving the way for God’s coming Kingdom, on earth as it is in heaven.
Have you ever leapt for joy at the mention of Jesus’s name? Have you ever teared up when singing of God’s immeasurable goodness? Have you ever felt overwhelmed in the presence of a holy place, person, or moment? In the same way that Elizabeth praised Mary, and her yet unborn son leapt for joy, we too are to be filled with joy and praise for Jesus. Today as you pray, ask God for joy. Ask God to show you the people, places, and situations in your everyday life that most closely usher God’s presence into your life. Look for these people, places, and situations and seek them out. Pay attention, embrace them, and be filled with joy. Let joy overflow you, so that you share it with others, just as Elizabeth does with Mary.