“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” (Luke 1:39-42).
What is it about a baby? When my first niece was born, I was astonished. My brother-in-law, competent and levelheaded, melted into a syrupy sweet puddle of love. I had not expected that reaction; but now I am no longer surprised when I see it. It is just the way we are wired.
I had the awesome experience last summer to adopt a stray cat who was pregnant with five kittens. What a joy it was for me to hold those helpless, tiny, blind new lives in my hand! And what a joy watching them grow, mew, open their eyes, learn to walk, and develop their own personalities. You can’t help but love them!
When Elizabeth greeted Mary, Elizabeth immediately recognized that the baby Mary bore was no average baby. Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, blessed Mary and her baby. The next verses record the song of Mary, so beloved by Christians:
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants forever” (Luke 1:46-55).
Then follows the whole Christmas story: the faithfulness of Joseph, the courage of Mary, the announcement of the angels, the witness of the shepherds, and the conviction of the Magi. All about a tiny newborn baby. We can only imagine the awe they must have felt when they came to worship. Religious art depicts that scene with halos, glowing lights or a ray from the star. It’s hard to imagine the holy mystery, the presence of God, they must have felt. They were viewing the advent of God made flesh, an unexplainable gift given to all of us!
We can’t all hold a newborn baby this Christmas Eve, or even a kitten. We may be social distancing so we cannot even physically hold our family and friends, or sing together in church. But we can all take some time to ponder, as Mary did, the astounding blessing of Jesus given to us. This Good News is all we need for Christmas.
Let all mortal flesh keep silence, and with fear and trembling stand;
Ponder nothing earthly minded, for with blessing in his hand
Christ our God to earth descending comes our homage to demand.
King of kings, yet born of Mary, as of old on earth he stood;
Lord of lords in human vesture, in the body and the blood,
He will give to all the faithful his own self for heav’nly food.