39 At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, 40 where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! 43 But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!”
I want to focus on John the Baptist today. Normally John is one of the main characters of our Advent preparation for Christmas. As we heard in Gabriel’s announcement to Zechariah, John received from before his birth a special commission to prepare the way for the Messiah. So it’s customary to focus on John at some point in our Advent journey.
What do you think of when you consider John the Baptist? Normally, I think of baptism. I think of John’s call to repentance. I think of his fiery denunciation of the Pharisees for coming out see him as curiosity-seekers. And I think of his tragic end because of Herod’s foolish oath to his Salome.
In our passage today we have our first and earliest encounter with John that Baptist. And what do we see regarding John here? Joy.
Elizabeth tells Mary that as soon as she heard Mary’s greeting, John leaped for joy within. It was not just Elizabeth that recognized Mary’s voice; John recognized the presence of His Lord within Mary. In the same way, John will recognize the presence of Jesus when He comes to Jordan to be baptized. Nobody had to point out to John who this man was. He knew. And he knew why Jesus had come. As John proclaimed to the crowds, “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29).”
John’s reaction in our passage today is all the more remarkable because he is not yet born. Something very profound is being taught here about the nature and dignity of human life within the womb. The unborn John responds with joy to the presence of the unborn Jesus. There are deep and significant implications here regarding the unborn as image-bearers of God.
John responded with joy when his Lord came to him. We too have cause to respond with joy regarding our Lord’s coming to us. We have joy because we have a Savior who has come to bring redemption, pardon for our sins, and the gift of resurrected life in the New Creation. We have joy as our Savior comes to us today in His Word and in His Sacrament. We have joy in knowing that our Lord is present and comes to us as we gather – even virtually – in His name.
There are many things that have taken place this year and that are currently going on that can undermine and take away our joy. But the example of John the Baptist today calls us to meditate on that which gives eternal joy: The coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
Lord, let your Spirit so work in me that like John, I rejoice whenever you come to me.
Live Stream and in person worship each Sunday at 9:30 AM. Live stream on Wednesdays at 7:00 PM. Please go to this page for more information: https://stjohnslutheran.net/live-streaming-worship-at-st-johns/
For previous Abide devotions, go to https://stjohnslutheran.net/category/abide/