Feeling a child moving inside you is indescribable. At first the sensation is faint, a mere flutter. Indigestion, maybe? No. You stand very still, holding your breath. There. Again.
Awe sweeps over you, as you press a loved one’s hand against your tummy. Here. Feel it? But only you can trace those tiny movements. In a few weeks that will change, but for now, this mysterious, miraculous gift from the Lord, this absolute proof of life, is yours alone to cherish.
It was different for Mary. She didn’t wait months for evidence that a child was growing inside her. She didn’t need an EPT or a fetal heart monitor or an ultrasound or a swift kick to her ribs.
Mary simply needed to visit her pregnant relative, Elizabeth, in “a town in the hill country of Judea” (Luke 1:39), called Ein Kerem. Strap on your best walking sandals, and let’s join them.
Read Chapter Four: O Tidings of Comfort and Joy
Read Luke 1:39-56
Breathtaking, to consider how far Mary traveled to see Elizabeth. Seventy, eighty, or one hundred miles, depending on the route she took south from Nazareth. A ten-day trek across some pretty barren landscape.
Elizabeth had no clue her young relative was coming, let alone that Mary was pregnant.
But the Holy Spirit knew. That’s why, “When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit” (Luke 1:41).
I get serious chills here. A woman—a woman—was filled with the Spirit of God! And that same Spirit spoke through Elizabeth “in a loud voice” (Luke 1:42), ”
Back in Nazareth Gabriel told Mary she was “highly favored” (Luke 1:28). Now her relative—“cousin” in some translations—said the same thing: “God has blessed you more than any other woman” (NCV).
I love this about Elizabeth. She didn’t sing out, “Look at me, I’m Sandra Dee,” and thrust out her sizeable baby bump. She didn’t say, “Let me tell you my good news.”
Oh no. She was far more excited about what was going on with Mary. And in Mary. Her next exclamation was a stunner: “Blessed is the child you will bear!” (Luke 1:42). Elizabeth discovered Mary was pregnant when the words poured out of her mouth. That was when Mary found out too. Woo hoo!
This classic painting is accurate as far as it goes, but in real life, these two women surely were lots more exuberant than this. I picture them exchanging first-century high fives and laughing until they couldn’t catch their breath.
“I know! Me too!”
“And then he said—”
“I know! Me too!”
Can you imagine it?.Whatever their age difference, it no longer mattered—not when they had so much in common. They both believed in the Almighty. They both trusted his heavenly messenger. And they both had sons in their wombs because of God’s love.
Not simply his love for them, but even more, his love for us.
Grace for Elizabeth, grace for Mary, grace for you, grace for me.
Elizabeth is overwhelmed, wondering aloud why God had so blessed her “that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Luke 1:43).
Read too quickly, and we might miss a big nugget of truth in this verse: “my Lord.” This was Elizabeth’s confession of faith—her “I believe that Jesus is the Messiah” declaration—and he wasn’t even born yet.
That’s not only having the faith of a child (Matthew 18:3). That’s having faith in a child.
Some of us struggle our whole lives to fully believe, to wholly commit, to truly call him Lord. We want proof, we want evidence, we want signs and wonders, we want miracles.
Show me, Lord.
So, he did. Christmas is God showing us who he is and why he came.
Immanuel—God with us—turns doubters into believers. It’s easier to resist a God you cannot see. But an innocent baby in a manger? An innocent man on a cross? Flesh-and-blood fact. Undeniable truth.
No wonder Elizabeth praised young Mary—still a child herself—for her childlike faith. “Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!” (Luke 1:45).
Elizabeth believed what Gabriel told her husband. Mary believed what Gabriel told her in person. Maybe you’re thinking, “Lizzie, if an angel showed up and told me what God was going to do for me, then I would believe.”
Beloved, we have something these women did not have: the whole counsel of God captured between the covers of a book. Not on sacred scrolls stored in a synagogue, but in our purses, on our iPads, under our choir folders.
God’s Word is as affordable and available as a fast-food lunch, and a hundred thousand times more nourishing.
We also have something these women did have: the Holy Spirit. After four centuries of silence without angelic visits or prophetic utterances, the Holy Spirit was back in town in a big way.
When the Spirit filled Elizabeth, good news poured out. When the Spirit filled Mary, a magnificent song flowed forth, glorifying the Lord (Luke 1:46).
Now it’s our turn to let God fill us, to let God use us, to praise his name—not just during Advent, but every day until he comes to take us home.
From the Study Guide
In the end neither Elizabeth nor Mary is the star of this chapter; rather, the Holy Spirit takes center stage. In John 14:26 we learn that the Holy Spirit “will teach you all things.” In Acts 13:4 Barnabas and Saul were “sent on their way by the Holy Spirit.” And in Romans 15:13 we’re told we will “overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” What role does the Holy Spirit play in your life?
I know, I know: a risky question, when so many churches offer different teachings on the Holy Spirit. So, here is what I ask: Be kind to one another. Build up one another. Encourage one another. Agree, rather than disagree. Be humble. Listen, rather than judge. Love one another. Honor God above all.
As for how I would respond to this question, God’s Word tells us, “When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit” (Ephesians 1:13-14) Don’t you love that heavenly stamp of approval?
When I start to doubt, the Spirit is quick to restore my faith. When I’m tempted to snap out at someone, the Spirit tames my tongue. When I mess up big time, the Spirit convicts, gently but firmly. When I study God’s Word, it’s the Spirit that reveals Truth. If I manage to do something right, the Spirit deserves all the credit.
He is like the wind, which cannot be seen or grasped, yet exerts great power. He is God’s breath in us, and God’s gift to us. He is “love, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23). When you see those qualities in another believer, you’re seeing the Holy Spirit in action.
Now it’s your turn
- Was there something in Chapter Four that really spoke to you?
- What role does the Holy Spirit play in your life?
Kindly share your response under Post a Comment below. Your words truly matter and enrich our study together.
If you missed my earlier posts, you’ll find links to them below. Want your own copy of The Women of Christmas? You’ll find it here.
Can you believe we’re already halfway through our study? Thanks for reading, sharing, tweeting, posting, and encouraging your friends to join us!
Your sister, Liz