Two Pregnancies, One Hope

VisitationDurerNext Sunday's Gospel reading is the story of young, pregnant Mary visiting old, pregnant Elizabeth. Here is my take on it. If any of you preachers out there would like to steal some of the words, feel free. Meditation on Luke 1:39-45

God is with His people. Not in a burning bush, not in a pillar of cloud, not riding on the chariot throne, not seated between the cherubim. The old things have passed away, and, behold, new things have come. The God who in days of old brought forth Eve from Adam’s flesh now brings forth the New Adam from the New Eve’s flesh. “This One is now bone of our bones and flesh of our flesh; He shall be called Man, because He was taken out of woman.” God has married His people – not in a bush or cloud or atop a throne, but within a virgin. Not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh but by taking the manhood into God. The Reality has assumed the image, the Creator has partaken of creation, God has become man. O sing unto the Lord a new song, for a woman is pregnant with Yahweh.

But she is not the only one pregnant; so is Elizabeth, her relative. Within her is the six-month-old prophet of the Most High who will go before the Lord to prepare His ways. John’s ministry will be patterned after Elijah’s whose ministry was patterned after that of Moses. So when John opens his mouth, you hear the sound of a prophetic choir. Moses, Samuel, Elijah, Elisha, Isaiah, Jeremiah and a host of others all crowd into the pulpit of his mouth to proclaim, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” The Agnus Dei is the whole corpus of prophetic hymnody.

But before John preaches, before he baptizes, before he is even born, he is filled with the Holy Spirit and leaps in his mother’s womb. He is called and ordained in utero. The Baptizer enters his office while still living in the water of the womb.

The mother of this prophet is visited by the Mother of God. In the coming together of these two pregnant women, we see the coming together of the old and the new. For Elizabeth – in her old age, former barrenness, priestly husband, and prophetic son – is an icon of the old and aging Israel. Whereas Mary – in her youth, maternal virginity, and divine Son – is an icon of the new and everlasting Israel of God. As Sarah was the alpha mother in Israel so Elizabeth is the omega. She will give birth the last of the OT prophets. The curtain’s about to close, the veil rent in twain. Israel, who had, in a sense, been journeying since the days of Abraham, would finally come to their destination at the river Jordan. And there will stand John, to shepherd them across the baptismal river to rest within the promised land of the Messiah’s holy flesh.

Because of all this the infant prophet leaps for joy. And well he should, and well should we. For if seas roar, and rivers clap their hands; if mountains and hills sing together; if the mouths of infants and nursing babes and unborn prophets shout for joy – if all these, with one heart and mouth, glorify God on the day of His visitation, how much more should we? For Mary’s song is the song of the redeemed as she chants: “the Might One has done great things for me; and holy is His name.” The Mighty One has indeed done great things for Mary and Elizabeth and John and you.

For you who sprint blindly down the paths of self-interest, He has laid bare His heel for the ancient serpent’s fangs. For you whose careless words slice away at friend and foe, He is the silent Lamb who offers His throat to the priestly blade. For you who drink iniquity like water, He is the Sea that swallows up your enemies. For you who hunger and thirst for unrighteousness, He is the Land flowing with milk and honey. The divine judge has become your human substitute. He has done great things for you though you have done great things against Him.

Therefore, repent and rejoice! Let newborn babes and old codgers leap for joy; join David in dancing before the new ark of the covenant. Rejoice and ponder the mystery. Let all the sons of Adam and all the daughters of Eve remove their sandals before the burning bush of Mary’s womb. For behind that pregnant veil is the new ark of the covenant, the Ark that is not covered in gold but skin; that is not filled with the law tablets of stone but the flesh and blood of the Gospel; that does not have a jar of manna and Aaron’s budding staff, but the Manna come down from above and the Tree of Life, all for you.

God is with His people for God is one of us. Amen.