One Lord and a Leaping! (Luke 1:39-45)
The 4th Sunday in Advent (December 19, 2021)
Well, we survived another end of the world! Imagine that! The “doomsdayers” were predicting back in late 2019 and early 2020 that the Covid-19 pandemic would be cataclysmic, eclipsing even the Black Plague of the Middle Ages in the destruction of human life. To be sure hundreds of millions of us have gotten sick and unfortunately even millions have died either directly or indirectly from Covid around the world. However, we have witnessed similar effects following almost every annual influenza outbreak. But thanks be to God the most dire predictions have not come to pass. In fact, what has proven to be the most destructive to our everyday lives has actually stemmed from the measures our leaders have imposed to deal with the pandemic, especially with regard to loss of jobs, the loss of education for our children, and the rise of psychosomatic disorders and diseases.
I suppose, therefore, that we all should be leaping with joy that much of the dire consequences forecast have not come to fruition. Even though prayer and vigilance are still the order of the day, given that we are not out of the Covid woods yet, we have much to thank God.
This time of year also reminds us that neither do we have anything to feel glum about. In a few short days it will be Christmas Day, our celebration of our Lord’s first coming as the Babe of Bethlehem when He ushered into our lives, as the prophet Micah proclaimed, His reign of peace. It might not be the tenth day of Christmas yet but we can all be like those ten lords a leaping every day, can’t we? Yes, I know nationally we stand on the precipice of a fiscal cliff. I realize new wars loom on the horizon. It is true every day greets us with more sorrow, hurts, death of loved ones, and the visitation of outright inhumanity and wickedness. But if the real message of Christmas can’t transcend all of this gloom and bring us all to our feet to leap for joy, then why do we bother to celebrate Christmas at all? Did not the angels in the sky above Bethlehem tell us as much: “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which shall be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you and Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10,11).
Here is the marvel of the text before us today. The one who gets all this, the one who is leaping for joy over Jesus’ advent is none other than a fetus… someone many in our world consider to be persona non grata… nothing but a piece of tissue of the mother, which they insist a woman can chose to disregard or throw away if she so choses. Now, what piece of tissue that you know of has a mind of its own and can move at will in Elizabeth’s womb, like this fetus? This fetus’ movement is not simply an involuntary spasm like that of a muscle. The Holy Spirit Himself testifies through Elizabeth that this little one leaped for joy at the very sound of Mary’s greeting. Tissue is incapable of hearing or of emotion. Persons hear and react to what they hear. Persons feel joy and can even leap for joy. Luke, himself a physician, rightly refers to this leaping one as a baby (brefos). Maybe, shocking to some, but this five month old, male, unborn child in the womb of his mother Elizabeth, leapt with great joy over the arrival of his Lord in the womb of Mary.
So, what’s wrong with the rest of us mature and seasoned Christians when the good news of Jesus’ birth does not get us doing cartwheels in the womb of our worldly life and existence? It has been reported that some are planning to forgo their Christmas celebration and observance altogether this year in keeping with suggestions given by some bureaucrats to help stem the rise of infections from the Covid Omicron variant. Others are questioning how anyone can sing Christmas Carols when their loved one lies ill or passes away… when they are facing a fiscal cliff in their own personal finances… when their own health continues to worsen.
Leaping for joy over the coming of the Babe of Bethlehem is not raw emotion. It does not stem from the euphoria of having fun. It is not the reaction of someone who has everything going their way. Leaping for joy over Jesus is the byproduct of faith in Jesus. Christmas is a matter of the heart not our physical circumstances.
Yes, this fetus joyfully celebrated Christmas! This baby… had faith… faith that the One in the womb of Mary was the Incarnate Son of God, Himself, come to be ruler in Israel and shepherd them in the strength of the LORD (Micah 5:2, 4)… come to save people from their sins (Matt. 1:21) by giving His life as a sacrifice for the whole world .
Such faith in such a spectacular bit of good news is itself miraculous and amazing! Such faith had been miraculously brought forth in this pre-born child in the same way it is miraculously brought forth in every one of us; that is, through the hearing of the Word of Christ (Rom. 10:17).
And, certainly, this child had had the opportunity to hear God’s Word. This baby’s father was someone who not only studied the Holy Scriptures, but also publicly read and taught that Holy Word of God to God’s people. He was a priest. His name was Zacharias. His wife Elizabeth and the child in her womb regularly heard the prophecies of the coming Messiah, like our O.T. lesson from Micah this morning. From the time of his conception, Zacharias and Elizabeth’s son, named John at the command of God Himself (Lk 1:63), was given to hear the Good News that on account of His love for the world, God would give the world a Savior who is The Christ ( the Messiah), in fact, the LORD Himself, who would redeem all people from sin and death by His own blood. Through that Word of Christ this baby in utero was given new birth by the Holy Spirit (Jn 3)…was made to believe in Jesus Christ as his Savior and through that faith to receive forgiveness of all his sins and eternal life. Is that not something to do flip-flops over!
While many in the world this Christmas are busy looking for some kind of merriment founded in the physical circumstances of their lives or in the festivities of their celebration, those who will enjoy the true happiness of Christmas are those who, like the baby John, and like Mother of the Lord herself, are holding to the fulfillment of God’s promises in faith. The inspired Elizabeth said of Mary, “Blessed (lit.- happy) is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”
The angel Gabriel, who had brought Mary the astonishing word that even though she was a virgin she would conceive in her womb a male child who would be the Son of the Most High and be given the throne of his father David, had hardly left her when Mary made her trip up to Jerusalem to tell the good news to Elizabeth.
Mary would never have made that trip if she had not believed the word of the Lord through the angel. Certainly it was too early yet for her to feel a child stirring in her womb. But she went none-the –less, firmly convinced in faith that God’s promise to her was already being accomplished within her. Her trip to the hill country of Judea was not a chore. It was a trip of joy; joy born of faith that God was fulfilling what He had promised. The happiness of Christmas was already upon her.
As Scripture tells us, “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1). Where there is this faith there will always be joy in the Lord. Mary and John both had been given such faith through the power of the message of the Lord they had heard. God’s promise was as good as done in their minds and hearts and by His words He was accomplishing what He said. Accordingly, in the joy that God was fulfilling what He promised, Mary went with haste and John leapt. Such joy is always the wonderful fruit of faith.
The birth narrative of Jesus, upon which we will once again focus this Christmas, is not merely a beautiful story. It is the proclamation with specificity that God has kept His promises and fulfilled them in the womb of a virgin from Nazareth and completed in the crucifixion of her Son, Who is also the Lord and God of heaven and Earth. This account of the nativity of Jesus is the assurance that God has made good on His promises to give us sinners a Savior, who is Christ the LORD. It is the Good News of great joy which shall be to all people; that in the city of David a Savior has been born for you and me. Such a word cannot be received without true joy.
Yes, it is cold in the world today. Yes, this world is often a dark, dreary, dangerous and a most wicked place. And, yes, because of what is going on in your life right now, it might seem like the end of the world is upon you. Politically speaking, things might appear so dire that not even the lords of this world feel like leaping. But in the midst of such darkness comes the light of Christmas. The Good News of the advent of the Child of Mary, the Saving Lord, causes fetuses and old geezers alike to be a-leaping for joy in Him! For nothing shall be able destroy, take away, or even diminish this joy and the certain hope in our eternal deliverance it has given us! (Rom. 8:31-39) Amen!