Leap For Joy!
July 1, 2017
Verse: Luke 1:39–1:45
Christ Lutheran Church
July 2, 2017
by: Rev. Dean Kavouras
Leap For Joy!
In those days Mary arose and travelled with all haste into the hill country, to a city of Judah, and entered the house of Zechariah, and greeted Elizabeth! And when Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and 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, as soon as the voice of your greeting sounded in my ears, the child in my womb leaped for joy! And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of the things that are spoken to her from the Lord." Luke 1:39-45
Today the church celebrates the Feast of the Visitation, a festival that has been observed by God’s people since before the 13th century, but one traditionally ignored by Protestants. Today we aim to remedy that problem, and in the process to learn the importance of this mysterious event, the persons involved, and what the Visitation means for us today. And so let us begin.
The first thing we learn from St. Luke’s Gospel is that immediately following Gabriel’s announcement to the Blessed Virgin, the declaration that she would become the mother of the Lord. And upon informing her, further, that her kinswoman Elizabeth, who was both Barren and well beyond child-bearing years was expecting. Upon hearing this news St. Luke reports that Mary immediately got up, and with great haste left her home in Galilee, and made the long trek to the hill country of Judah to visit blessed Elizabeth. No reason is given, nor need we trouble our heads investigating.
Instead let us focus on what is important, namely, the visit itself. Important because Mary was not operating now as an independent actor, but as the bearer of Christ, and Mother of God! So that wherever she went Jesus the incarnate Savior also went. Mary, for the time, was what we call in our catechism a “means of grace.” Her womb was the temple of God on earth which, among other things, teaches us that the womb is a holy place! And life is sacred! Especially the life that resides therein! Please keep that in the front of your mind as you pass your days in this bloody world, that fears and despises the unborn, and turns against innocent and helpless lives; for which the wrath of God is coming!
But to return to our course, let us learn from today’s Gospel that wherever the Incarnate Christ visits amazing things happen! Good things. Blessed and happy things. As Mary entered Zechariah’s house, and greeted Elizabeth St. Luke reports that Elizabeth’s child, John the Baptist, now six months alive leaped for joy; which is a testament to the power and wonder of the Lord’s presence among his people. That even a babe in the womb can recognize and respond to our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.
And so “why do the Fundamentalist rage” (Psalm 2:1) at Holy Baptism where God the Holy Trinity, in all his fullness and glory; love and mercy visits a child of the flesh with life and salvation? Comes to him not for a brief visit but to be with him always. To wash away his sins, to bless him, and make him a child of God for time and eternity? Yes, wherever our Lord is present with his word, his water and his promise great things happen for us!
And let us also consider the greeting that Mary gave. Again, we need not trouble ourselves over the words spoken, they are not given. But what we can safely assume is that this was no ordinary greeting. It was not a “hey, how are ya, it’s been like forever!”
No, it was no casual or flip greeting. Nor was it the “meet and greet” that marks the beginning of many church services today which is phony, embarrassing, and out of character with such an august assembly as the Divine Service.
No, you can be sure it was nothing like that, but a sacred and holy greeting born of humble faith, great wonder and with the intent of glorifying God, and blessing one another.
We might think of it much as we do the element of our own worship called the Greeting.” “The Lord be with you. And with thy spirit.” A greeting repeated three times in the Lutheran rite of the Mass. First before the pastor leads the people in the Collect. Next as the church begins her Eucharistic liturgy. And lastly before the Benediction. These are words we should hear; and respond to; with the same wonder and faith that transpired when holy Mary, greeted holy Elizabeth. Words that caused a baby in the womb to quicken, and to leap with joy. And that, in turn, filled Elizabeth with the Holy Spirit of God and caused her to prophecy! and to praise her great God and Savior, Jesus Christ!
Because when we greet one another in this way, dear Christians, we are recognizing Christ in one another. We are confessing that we are baptized, and that as such Christ dwells in our hearts by faith; and in our dying flesh, with his living flesh in blessed Bread. This makes us, like the Blessed Virgin, bearers of Christ. Holy people, even as he his holy. Not by virtue of our behavior, sad to say, which too often is anything but holy.
Repent of those things O Christian! Struggle against them. “Fight the good fight with all your might,” (TLH 447) and do not allow evil to enter into your life, because it does not like to leave. But chase it away by confessing your sins in the church each Sunday. Or better yet in private confession. And always believe the Absolution! “I forgive you all your sins! In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. For it is the voice of Christ speaking, be it through lips of clay.
And don’t be afraid, not now, not ever, because the Lord who comes to you from the womb of Mother Church to quicken you, and make you alive, will not leave you, forsake you, or take his Holy Spirit from you. But he will be with you, even as he was with Mary, and Elizabeth. And so leap for joy, Jesus is here for you! Amen.