39 In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, 40 where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit 42 and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. 43 And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? 44 For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child 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 by the Lord.”
Something miraculous and wonderful has just occurred in Mary’s life. She is to be the mother of the long awaited Messiah. Her cousin Elizabeth has also had a miraculous experience of becoming pregnant late in life with John the Baptist. In these short verses we receive a picture of how the Holy Spirit filled them and fueled their faith. Through meditating of their experience of conversion, we receive an encouraging picture of how the Spirit works in our lives as well.
First there is our belief and a “yes” to God. Mary responds to the angel Gabriel, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” Elizabeth also responded to news of her pregnancy with faith, believing it was from God. In verse 25, “The Lord did this for me,” she exclaimed. “He has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.”
The Spirit also gives an inner witness or confirmation. When Mary arrived at Elizabeth’s house, at the sound of her greeting, Elizabeth’s baby leaped for joy. Joy is different than just happiness or excitement. It involves a certainty or inner knowing that gives us wisdom or the awareness of God’s presence. Sometimes we too can feel our hearts leap when we sense the voice of the Spirit.
The third manifestation of the Spirit is blessing. The word blessed stands out here and is used several times by Elizabeth. There are many ways in which we recognize the Lord’s blessing in our lives. One of the most profound is the gift to know and experience the presence of God and the power of God’s kingdom regardless of our circumstances. Yet this is often overlooked when we are making a list of blessings. We tend to focus on what is more material or tangible. I believe that both Mary and Elizabeth received this gift from the Spirit throughout their lives in times of happiness an in times of sorrow, and so can we.
Mary’s canticle of praise is not part of today’s reading, but the fact that it follows this joy-filled visit between Mary and Elizabeth speaks volumes about what is to be our response to the work of the Spirit. As mentioned above, we tend to praise God out of material abundance, but what a wonderful season to count our spiritual blessings and perhaps even compose our own canticle of praise. How much more will we enjoy our Christmas celebration if our hearts are full of praise and thanksgiving for what the Lord has done, beginning with the miraculous birth of Jesus Christ and a young woman’s willingness to say yes to God.