Power Up l Luke 1:39-56 l Chapel Hill Church Gig Harbor
A couple weeks ago after service, I spotted our police officer, Eddie, whom I had not seen for a while. I went over to greet him, threw my arms around him and gave him a hug. I was holding this ID lanyard, and after I hugged him, pulled back…and found myself hooked on something. So, I tugged…and tugged…until I realized that the lanyard was wrapped around his gun handle. I was trying to pull his pistol out of its holster! Our reunion produced a very unexpected surprise for both of us.
So does the reunion we read about this morning as we continue Luke’s Christmas saga. Here’s the context. The angel Gabriel has been a busy boy. First, he appeared to an old, priestly couple named Zechariah and Elizabeth. They were barren but Gabriel announced God would give them a miracle. A son, conceived in their old age. John the Baptist, the wild-haired, wild-eyed, grasshopper-eating, baptizing preacher who would become the Messiah’s warm-up act. That was miracle number one.
Then, Gabriel visited a teen-aged virgin girl in Podunk, Nazareth named Mary, with news that she was pregnant by the Holy Spirit…and would give birth to that long-awaited Messiah. After 400 years of silence, God kept his word. He was sending a savior…and young, virgin Mary would be his mother. Miracle number two.
My daughter, Rachel, an EPC pastor, interviewed a middle school girl in her church named Ella for a Christmas sermon she is preaching this weekend. Here’s how that went.
Rachel: If an angel showed up and said, “I know you’re not married, but you’re gonna have a baby.” What would you think/feel?
Ella: Maybe freaked out cause, you know, it’s an angel. I mean, pregnant? What? If it’s for God, I guess? Sure?
Rachel: What would it be like telling your mom/friends/people at Church?
Ella: Oooooooo I mean, Oh jeez, um…I feel like my mom would believe me, but that would be hard.
Rachel: Anything else you think was going through Mary’s head?
Ella: I think she would’ve been very nervous, especially without doctors and having to do it in a stable. I would be nervous.
I’ll bet Mary was nervous…don’t you? Where would she go? Who could she talk to? Who would believe her? Well…one person came to mind. Elizabeth. If anyone could help Mary think through this angelic visit…it was the woman who had just had an angelic visit of her own.
“In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah, and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”
“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. And 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 mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty.” Luke 1:26-56
Last week I made the case that no one is ever too small…too insignificant…too be used by God. You may feel inadequate…unprepared…unworthy…but if you are willing, God can and will use you in ways you cannot even imagine.
Today’s text only strengthens that point. It is a story of God using the insignificant. First, there’s the witness of the unborn. What person is less powerful than an unborn child? Especially in first-century Rome which placed no value on the unborn or even the newborn. They could be disposed of without a second thought. Yet Luke declares, amazingly, that Elizabeth’s child would be “…filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb.” And when Mary walks into Elizabeth’s home and greets her, upon hearing her voice, unborn John “leaps” in his mother’s womb. The same word is used to describe a lamb frolicking in a pasture. Unborn John recognizes the voice of his Lord’s mother, Mary…and reacts with such powerful joy that Elizabeth cries out in amazement!
John the Baptist is still in utero; he is three months away from birth…about as small and insignificant as you can get! But this Spirit-filled unborn person is already playing the role God has assigned him. By his leap of joy, he testifies to the Messiah who is still resident in Mary’s womb. Isaiah prophesied that John would be a voice crying in the…