The hustle and bustle of the Christmas season is past. The great news of the birth of our Saviour held centre stage, but there were other sections of the Christmas readings that hold lessons for us that are very applicable to us today.
Among them is the meeting of two “impossible” mothers to be. One is old enough to be your grandmother and perhaps even your great-grandmother. Her name is Elizabeth. The child, six months old in the womb, is John the Baptist. The other woman is young, we’d still call her a “girl” I suppose, but in her day she was a young woman ready to be married. Her name is Mary.
From all outward appearances, Elizabeth’s pregnancy is the miraculous one. Whoever heard of a great-grandmother conceiving and bearing a child? That would amaze even us scientifically skeptical people.
The miracle of the second mother, however, is hidden to the eye, a matter of faith. She is a virgin, betrothed but not yet married to a man named Joseph. Against everything we know about reproductive biology she, too, is pregnant. Not in the way most people would assume, but “by the Holy Spirit.” Her child is not just any child, but the incarnate second Person of the eternal, undivided Holy Trinity.
And yet the world would not recognize this miracle. We know beyond all scientific doubt that virgins simply do not conceive. It is a biological impossibility. Joseph knew that. His initial reaction was to call off the marriage in private and give Mary the opportunity to, perhaps, go and marry the rightful father of her child. It was a gracious gesture on the part of Joseph who could have exposed Mary to public shame and ridicule, perhaps even stoning as an adulteress.
But Joseph knew this much. Virgins don’t conceive. Old women like Elizabeth? Well, that’s strange. Weird even. Not something you really want to think about all too hard. Miraculous, yes. but not outside the realm of conceivable.
What is inconceivable is that a virgin would conceive and bear a son. It’s not surprising, then, that Mary hurries off to the hill country of Judea to cousin Elizabeth. Scripture does not tell us the reason for this trip, perhaps to get her out of the prying public eye of Nazareth and have her stay for awhile with Elizabeth. It will be better for both family and Joseph, because the unbelieving world is not going to put the best construction on this, and still doesn’t.
Would you have believed Mary if she were your daughter or your fiance?
Would you, like Joseph, have rearranged your whole life and all your expectations on the basis of a dream?
You and I are confronted by the same thing all the time – the Word of our God versus our and the world’s perception of things. The world wants our perception of these two children in the wombs of these impossible mothers to be not yet human. A mass of tissue. Not thinking or reasoning. Yet the Word tells us we are spiritual beings, and that spirit is thinking and reasoning from conception.
“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” [Psalm 139:13]
Luke tells us that when Mary approached Elizabeth’s house and Elizabeth heard the sound of Mary’s voice, John leaped for joy in Elizabeth’s womb. Not just the usual kick but a leap of joy. That fact alone needs to be highlighted on several fronts.
Let’s be done with this notion that you aren’t fully human until you’re born, as though human life in the womb is something less than human. John is leaping with joy at the sound of the voice of His Lord’s mother. Don’t be sucked in by the rhetoric of those who would deny full humanity to the unborn.
John’s kick demonstrates faith and reason. John is preaching, prophesying pointing to Jesus already even before He is born with the joyful kick Elizabeth feels. Barely conceived, and yet John rejoices over Him.
Mary is barely “showing” at this point, and yet Jesus is recognized as fully Lord and Saviour even now.
Whatever we have to say about life in the womb must be shaped by these two, John and Jesus, in their respective mothers.
If John, still in the womb, can recognize Jesus this soon after conception we can definitively say life begins at conception!