December the 17th finds us again in the Gospel of Luke chapter 1, verses 39-56:
Now at this time Mary arose and went in a hurry to the hill country, to a city of Judah, and entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.
And she cried out with a loud voice and said: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And how has it happened to me, that the mother of my Lord would come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby leaped in my womb for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what had been spoken to her by the Lord.”
The Magnificat or, Mary’s Song
And Mary said:
“My soul exalts the Lord,
and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.
For He has had regard for the humble state of His bondslave;
for behold, from this time on all generations will count me blessed.
For the Mighty One has done great things for me;
and holy is His name.
‘And His mercy is upon generation after generation
Toward those who fear Him."
He has done mighty deeds with His arm;
He has scattered those who were proud in the thoughts of their heart.
He has brought down rulers from their thrones,
and has exalted those who were humble.
‘He has filled the hungry with good things;’
and sent away the rich empty-handed.
He has given help to Israel His servant,
in remembrance of His mercy,
as He spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and his descendants forever.”
And Mary stayed with her about three months, and then returned to her home.
After the angel Gabriel leaves Mary, she prepares to go and visit her relative Elizabeth. Elizabeth is pregnant with Zechariah's son, who will grow up to be John the Baptist. When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the baby “leaped in my womb for joy.” Remember at this time Zechariah still can't talk, Elizabeth is in about her sixth month of her pregnancy, and Mary is newly pregnant with Jesus, by the Holy Spirit. Verse 56 tells us that Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months, which would be the time Elizabeth was due. Luke doesn't tell us whether Mary was there at the birth of John and, I suppose, we don't really need to know that. But it makes sense that Mary would stay for that.
Further in Luke chapter 1, verses 57-80:
Now the time had come for Elizabeth to give birth, and she gave birth to a son. Her neighbors and her relatives heard that the Lord had displayed His great mercy toward her; and they were rejoicing with her.
And it happened that on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to call him Zechariah, after his father. But his mother answered and said, “No indeed; but he shall be called John.” And they said to her, “There is no one among your relatives who is called by that name.” And they made signs to his father, as to what he wanted him called. And he asked for a tablet and wrote as follows, “His name is John.” And they were all astonished. And at once his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he began to speak in praise of God. Fear came on all those living around them; and all these matters were being talked about in all the hill country of Judea. All who heard them kept them in mind, saying, “What then will this child turn out to be?” For the hand of the Lord was certainly with him.
And his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit, and prophesied, saying:
“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
for He has visited us and accomplished redemption for His people,
and has raised up a horn of salvation for us
in the house of David His servant -
as He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from of old -
’Salvation from our enemies,
and from the hand of all who hate us;’
to show mercy toward our fathers,
and to remember His holy covenant,
the oath which He swore to Abraham our father,
to grant us that we, being rescued from the hand of our enemies,
might serve Him without fear,
in holiness and righteousness before Him all our days.
And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
For you will go on ‘before the Lord to prepare His ways;’
to give to His people the knowledge of salvation
by the forgiveness of their sins,
because of the tender mercy of our God,
with which the sunrise from on high will visit us,
‘to shine upon those those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death,’
to guide our feet into the way of peace.”
And the child continued to grow and to become strong in spirit, and he lived in the deserts until the day of his public appearance to Israel.
“And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go on “before the Lord to prepare His ways;” to give to His people the knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God.” I love Zechariah's prophecy. He was unable to speak for at least nine months but, when he starts to speak, he speaks such elegant praises to God. I love it.
Now John the Baptist is born. The messenger prophesied about in Malachi 3:1 and Isaiah 40:3-5 has finally come. Only six months from now the Savior, Jesus Christ, will be born. Jesus said this about John, in the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 11, verse 11:
“Truly I say to you, among those born of women there has not arisen anyone greater than John the Baptist!”
John was Zechariah and Elizabeth's firstborn son. All firstborn sons are God's own. And John is Levite by birth, which also means he is God's own. We find this in Numbers chapter 8, verses 16-18:
“They are the Israelites who are to be given wholly to me. I have taken them as my own in place of the firstborn, the first male offspring from every Israelite woman. Every firstborn male in Israel, whether human or animal, is mine. When I struck down all the firstborn in Egypt, I set them apart for myself. And I have taken the Levites in place of all the firstborn sons in Israel.”
In tomorrow’s blog, Mary returns to Nazareth and we will see the doubts and the righteousness of Joseph, Mary's betrothed.
There are two ornaments that goes beside the tree tonight; first is a small sign with the words of Luke 1:49 printed on it (highlighted in red above) and second, is a small sign that has the words of Luke 1:76 printed on it (highlighted in blue up above).