The word ‘bless’ or ‘blessing’ is used rather loosely these days. In fact, it is so common, it may be difficult to define what a blessing is. What’s more, with our culture of relative truth, where everyone gets to define terms for themselves, the definition of a blessing may have countless possibilities.
Here in America, we have a tendency to define ‘blessing’ in material goods. We view that one is blessed by the ‘food, drink, house, home, and all that we have’ definition. Indeed, these are blessings. They are blessings of the provision of the Lord for which we are to give thanks.
The question arises though, are we more blessed then, because we have more stuff, than say the people of Africa? Does this set us apart? Such a notion seems to feed the myth that somehow America must be a Christian nation because of its many material blessings.
This myth of blessing gives ample preaching material to all evangelists that promote a prosperity Gospel. The prosperity gospel drives home the thought that if one believes in God, or follows a series of steps toward God, that they will be ‘blessed’ by God with health, wealth, stuff, and on and on the list goes.
However, as we look at our text for today, the concept of being ‘blessed’ would have a far different source at its foundation. The word ‘blessed’ is used three times, and in no way does it seem to give credence to this notion of the fact that what makes one blessed is worldly abundance.
So the goal for us today as we draw ever so close to Christmas, with Christmas Eve being tomorrow and Christmas Day being Tuesday, that we would re-evaluate our definition of what a blessing is. Because the truth of the matter is, if we view that we are only blessed by God because of our health and/or wealth, then we run a great risk. For in the fragility and uncertainties of life, all of those things can be stripped away in the blink of an eye.
So let us open our eyes to behold the ‘blessed’ wonder in the making that is the incoming birth of our Savior Jesus Christ. And let us join with Mary, Elizabeth and John in recognizing, rejoicing, and responding to ‘the blessing of the presence of Christ’.
Let’s listen once again to our text for today. 39 In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah, 40 and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 41 And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, 42 and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! 43 And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord” (Luke 1:39-45).
Blessed. Blessed. Blessed. And indeed these women were blessed. Elizabeth had been barren, but now she was in the sixth month of her pregnancy with John, the forerunner of Christ. Mary was newly with child, but as the angel had told her, ‘the Holy Spirit had come upon her’ to conceive in her not just any child, but the One who ‘will be called holy—the Son of God.’
So there was no time to lose. When Mary found out from the angel that she was pregnant and her cousin was pregnant at the same time, this moment just had to be shared together. We can envision Mary packing her bags in a sort of frantic excitement as she made her way out the door with a skip in her step. After all the text says, she ‘went with haste’. Then bursting through the door of Zechariah and Elizabeth’s home, we can imagine the scene.
A greeting of smiles and laughter and hugs. Maybe Mary reached down and rubbed Elizabeth’s growing belly, because that’s what momma’s do. Oh yes, I’ve seen it before. But it was in that greeting that something quite remarkable took place.
The baby in Elizabeth’s womb leaped for joy. But then again, babies are always moving in the womb. My wife recently showed me a video on Facebook of an in utero look at the movement of a baby while in the womb. That baby never stopped moving! I was left to wonder, how on earth does a momma get any sleep. But, as I thought about that question, and all the sound nights of sleep I got through our children’s pregnancies, I thought it best not to ask.
The point is though, that since babies are always moving around in the womb, this must have been ‘some’ leap. An extraordinary amount of leaping ability for John. If it hadn’t been for him being called to be the last prophet, perhaps he could have had a future in basketball, had it been invented.
All kidding aside, John’s reaction to the presence of the baby in Mary’s womb was extraordinary. So it goes when One who is extraordinary comes on the scene.
And the extraordinary was just getting started. The text says that Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. The Word who had become flesh was now in the room, even though He was still in His momma’s tummy. He was there, and so the Holy Spirit came with Him. Because the Son and the Spirit go together. And filled then with the Holy Spirit, Elizabeth let’s out a response. The text says, that she exclaimed with a loud cry. And what is her response filled with? Blessed. Blessed. Blessed. Her response is filled with blessings. Blessings from the Lord.
Listen once again: And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, 42 and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! 43 And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord” (Luke 1:41b-45).
What a blessing! From the recognition and rejoicing of John the Baptist to the rejoicing and the response of Elizabeth. It all pointed to the One who was residing in the blessed womb of His mother Mary who believed that God would do just what He promised He would do…that God would provide a Savior, and now He was here.
It is all so amazing! For John the Baptist was sent to be the prophet to point the people to the coming of Christ, and he was already doing so before he was born, while he was leaping in the womb. And Elizabeth and Mary got to be the ones to benefit from such a blessing.
And so do we, as we join in believing that God will do all He has promised. For here we are gathered as baptized believers who have been filled with the Holy Spirit to hear the good news of the blessing of the presence of Christ among us. Just like the good news came into the ears of Elizabeth, John, and Mary, so it comes to us. After all, it is as Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” (Luke 11:28).
So we too are blessed because Christ is the source of every true blessing. In no way are we blessed because of who we are, for we are all sinners who fall short of the glory of God. And where it could be so easy at this time of year to think the things we have or receive under the tree are what makes us blessed, God’s Word directs us to the ultimate source of blessing when it comes to Christmas. And in no way does it point us to the things of this world, be it health, wealth, or any kind of stuff we may give or receive in the days to come.
Which reminds me of the classic Christmas story, “The Grinch”. There he was on Mount Crumpit about to throw all of the Whos’ Christmas gifts and decorations off of the cliff. But before doing so, he paused hoping to listen to all the Whos in Whoville cry boohoo.
“He paused. And the Grinch put a hand to his ear. And he did hear a sound rising over the snow. It started in low...then it started to grow. But this sound wasn't sad. Why, this sound sounded glad. Every Who down in Who-ville,
the tall and the small...was singing without any presents at all. He hadn't stopped Christmas from coming, it came. Somehow or other, it came just the same. And the Grinch, with his Grinch feet ice-cold in the snow...stood puzzling and puzzling. How could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes, or bags. He puzzled and puzzled till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before. "Maybe Christmas," he thought, "doesn't come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps,
means a little bit more."”
The ultimate source and foundation of our being ‘blessed’ is Christ, our Savior and Lord. We gather here today in recognition of this very truth. For Christ, the Son of God came. Though it was into this sin-filled world, He came just the same. He came, into Mary’s womb to be born in a stable and placed in a manger. He came into Jerusalem and was nailed to a cross. He came there to bleed, to suffer, and to die your death and mine. He came to defeat sin, death, and the devil once and for all. He came to rise from the dead, burst forth the grave. He came. He came, and what a blessing it is that He keeps coming to be present with us.
A blessing that we are still proclaiming here today as we feast on something far grander than any roast beast! For here today, the Son of God humbles Himself by coming to us under simple means of bread and wine so that we may have the blessed gifts of forgiveness, life, and eternal salvation.
This is where Jesus comes to be present with us, to be present in us. And where the things of this world will rust and decay, these blessings of our Savior will never pass away. A blessing we are still who justly deserve God’s present and eternal punishment.
So as we are about to celebrate Christmas, let us open our eyes to behold the ‘blessed’ wonder in the making that is the incoming birth of our Savior Jesus Christ. And in the power of the same Spirit that filled Elizabeth, let us recognize and respond with great joy to ‘the blessing of the presence of Christ’. Amen.
The peace of God which surpasses all human understanding guard and keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.