Fourth Sunday in Advent - "The Leaping Womb."
Elizabeth said: Behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. In the name of Jesus + Amen.
We now go from John the Baptist’ end of life story to his beginning of life role in the Gospel. The account this day is known as the Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth her aunt and also contains what the church has coined as: The Magnificat: Mary’s song magnifying the Lord. What divine drama. I love this account in Luke. Every part of it should receive the reality show award of all time.
It begins, “in those days”, what days? The days of Messiah coming. Mary, having risen up goes into the hill country. She ascends up mountainous terrain. This has Temple talk written all over it because it foreshadows how the people would ascend up to Jerusalem for all the Feast Days on the Jewish Calendar. Mary’s destination is Judah (the house and lineage of David from, the very line that Messiah would come from). She goes to uncle Zach and Aunt Liz’s house. Then Mary knock’s at the door as she enters their home, “hello, anybody home?” kind of like that- And immediately at that greeting something miraculous happens to Elizabeth, in Elizabeth. The baby, in her womb (who is John) leaps for joy. Can you sense what’s going on? Mary, who is with child, the child who just so happens to be the Savior of the World, steps into the room and the baby whom Elizabeth is with, out of pure joy, from sensing the presence of God in the room cannot contain himself. This is truly remarkable.
One might respond with the knowledge that infants in the womb know people’s voices and can get excited if they know them and heard them before. But the two women since being with child had not seen or spoken with each other. There were no telephones back then where baby John could have even heard the voice of his mom’s niece. So then, listen to the words of Elizabeth, after it says, after she was filled with the Holy Spirit. Let me stop right there. People in the time before Christ’s incarnation, right on up to Jesus’ ascension were not filled with the Holy Spirit in the same way that baptized Christians are today. Pentecost needed to occur, Jesus sending His Holy Spirit, in order for that to happen. When individuals and prophets are said to have the Holy Spirit back then, the Lord declares that He selectively placed His Spirit upon them, but had to do it specially just for them. The Spirit being able to come over all people couldn’t happen until Christ fulfilled His mission. So, for Elizabeth to be filled with the Holy Spirit is very special. And it was only because of her being filled with the Spirit that she was able to speak the words: Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! Why that blessing? Because, as she goes on: “that the mother of my Lord should come to me”. She is making a confession that the Lord is in the room just like the leaping John already has made. She relays to Mary what happened when she came in and she prophesies: Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord. How did she know that? Mary hadn’t told her. Right before this the Angel Gabriel had told Mary that Elizabeth was having a child too, even in her old age past childbearing years.
That’s why Mary decides to go to her relative who is going through some divine stuff in her life as well. Maybe she can gain some wisdom and counseling from her aunt since they now have some things in common to talk about. But to all that, Mary then breaks out in confession herself with the great Magnificat.
Let me tell you, there is no doubt that these two women represent the first two Christians there ever was. They were the first to make public confession of Christ being the Lord. You may not know that we Lutheran even hold the Magnificat dear to us, but we have been singing it all advent in the midweek Vesper services held here. It is in that evening service and that’s why it is an especially good service for the season of Advent.
There is so much going on in the Gospel account today. Good things being proclaimed at the coming of Christmas. It is a reminder to get into the joyful mood and to practice our leaping in the womb. Just as the prophet Micah foretold “come let us go up to the mountain of the Lord.” And Isaiah: “come let us go up to the mountain of the Lord so He can teach us and we may walk in His ways.” What baby John is fulfilling in the womb is a picture for us of Malachi 4:2 that we’ve heard already in our readings this Season: "But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall." Psalm 119 also declares that the glory of God from the heavens is like a bridegroom leaping from his chamber, like a champion rejoicing to run his course. Thus in like fashion we must leap in the season of Advent and keep leaping until the Son of righteousness comes to take us home. But just how can we be like that and portray it?
The Gospel says Elizabeth’s words was that it happened “in my womb.” And Jesus also was in Mary’s womb. To be like the first two Christians we must practice doing so in the womb. And the womb is none other than the house of God, where He resides. As the church has now become the womb in which we leap.
The early church fathers always associated the church being a type of Mary. The church is known as a “she” because of that and also because the church is called the Bride of Christ. And it is only through the womb of the church that you are born into the family of God. In the font is where the waters of the womb break forth into new birth, new life, salvation, and redemption because of the One who was in the womb. And it is Christian baptism how you become incorporated into that salvation and the blood line lineage of the Savior.
In the December issue of Reader’s Digest, the News from the World of Medicine section has a paragraph about jumping. It says that jumping rope has become a popular fitness exercise in these times because you don’t have to leave your house to do it. I know though if I jumped rope at home right now that I would probably pass out and get hurt; that’s how bad a shape of fitness I am in right now and so I don’t expect anyone in here to go and take up this routine of jump rope. I tell people though that everything we do in life, in everyday activities, there lingers something of a shadow of the life of the world to come. There are hints at scripture’s truths and motions and actions. We typically think nothing of these small things that come natural to us in our daily routines. We are so used to them all but there can always be something in them that points us to Gospel News. The Lord wants every aspect of our lives to teach us about Him and His ways and what He was like, is like, and will be like. for instance, the washing of your hands and body give you time to reflect on your baptism. Going to sleep at night and waking up in the morning, going from night to day, is the portrayal of what death is like and the resurrection to come as you rise in the morning from your beds. Going on walks, cleaning the house, cooking a meal, plugging in an electrical device that needs charged even has symbolism in it that we need charged with power from on high. There is something divine in all those things that are reflections of God the Father almighty and how He works for you.
In Mary’s Song she rejoices in these things. She is blessed and we are calling her blessed this day. She is singing, as the first Christian, the song of the church, where Christ resides. Mighty and holy is His name. His mercy is for generations to come, on those who fear Him. How do we fear Him? The third commandment: Remember the Sabbath Day by keeping it holy. What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not despise preaching and His Word, but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it. That ties into the Magnificat. The Church, filled with good things, helped, the New Israel that we are, in remembrance of His mercy. We remember His mercy here in the womb. As He spoke to our fathers…the same Word given week to week – to the Lord’s offspring forever.
Those who despise preaching and His Word, know not this leaping we do. They are opposed to this, chained up, tied down and their feet do not know how to come and be the sheep that leap out over the stalls of life. The stalls of everything hindering, that bogs down the ‘Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.’ And you likewise cannot remember how to leap if you are just grounded on and hung up in earthly things. It is only through the womb of the church, where heaven comes down, where Christ comes to us, that we can be lifted up.
A marvelous thing is written in the wilderness account of the Exodus when the people exited Egypt. In all their wilderness trials, Scripture says that the soles of their shoes did not wear out nor did their clothes wear thin during the 40yrs the Lord led them in the wilderness – from (Deuteronomy 29:5). Those are some good sandals to have right? Can I get some of those for Christmas; I mean, they have a 40yr life span. I wonder if Amazon sells shoes like that?
No, they can’t be manufactured by man because it was the Lord who lifted them up off their soles. He keeps us high above the rocks is another Psalm melody. Two days ago, this past Friday, I just presided over a funeral…not a member here. It was a request that came to me from the outside from a Lutheran family. But I want to tell you the theme of the service was “you have upheld me and set me in Your presence forever from Psalm 41:12.
Ask yourself, without the womb of the church and its leaping, how can anyone be held up? For it is only here that all the promises of God in Christ say this is where I work. This is where I promise my headquarters and office is at 120 E. Pleasant Ave. Maywood NJ 07607.
Now Christ has gone up to prepare a place for us, His house that has many rooms – and that house that He is building is the extension, the addition He erects and is attached to His Holy house the Church. We can’t go in there yet on that side. There’s too much contractor’s dust in there to be able to see clearly right now. The debris from the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is too strong right now. They have sheathing and tarps hanging so the new paint doesn’t get everywhere it’s not supposed to be. For now, we have the leaping womb to reside in and it is the best place where you are kept nourished, umbilical corded to your lifeline which is the blood of Jesus Himself.
I’m sure you know that the mother and child share their blood while connected that way in the womb. We get our blood types, each parent donating one of their blood type genes to the baby. Mary conceived Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit that is why Jesus called on God His Father and said they are one. And it is why we can call God our Father too, now that we share in His blood type. He is Alpha and Omega positive, and as His body is given and shed for you, you become apart of the blood line through the Good News – which is the greeting of the cross. Such a greeting should involuntarily cause a leaping of the Sprit of God within you just like it did to baby John. Now filled with the Holy Spirit, you are drawn to His presence, and it is in this presence where you know who is in the room.
Mary remained there at Elizabeth’s house for 3 months. I am sure she felt so welcomed there that she hardly even wanted to return home. And by the time she did she definitely would have been showing that baby bump. Yet she remained faithful to show it, rejoiced in her Savior. In her Magnificat she says that, “my spirit rejoices.”
Church, the Advent spirit, the Christ-mass spirit, is a leaping one. It has the traits of the lineage of the tribe of Judah in it, family members of Jesus and John. We can not help but to mimic this type of praising. And the prayers of the Church go out so that the world may see the bump of the church sticking out. As you go out into the world with a greeting. A wonderful greeting that causes them to leap at the spirit calling as He calls all to faith. So, keep rejoicing in the Lord always; He is at hand. The days are coming says the Lord.
Now may this peace of God which surpasses all understanding guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Leaping in His name now and forever+ Amen.