10th December

39 At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, 40 where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. (Luke 1:39-41)

From this story and from personal experience, God often makes and encourages us to wait on Him; but then when something happens in accordance with his will, things speed up. Here, things speed up for Mary: she gets up and goes in haste to Judea to meet Elizabeth (v.39-40). It is the most unlikely meeting of mothers-to-be: a young virgin and a formerly barren older woman come together for a time of comfort and encouragement. This is because God is there through the Holy Spirit. Again, things happen fast. Elizabeth needs only hear Mary’s greeting before she is filled with the Holy Spirit. As well as being moved spiritually, Elizabeth is also moved physically, because the baby (the future John the Baptist) leaps in the womb. This is quite an unusual verb, only used a couple of times in the Old Testament[1] (Jeremiah 50:11, Malachi 4:2) to describe the leaping about of calves and heifers, suggesting a dramatic, but not unnatural movement.

Being filled with the Holy Spirit is natural; but, for us, it is sometimes that comes externally and passively. We can always ask for more of the Holy Spirit, but we cannot demand that the Spirit comes at precisely 4:50pm on a Saturday afternoon – although it might help Coventry to score a few more last-minute winners. Perhaps we can sometimes even overreach for a spiritual encounter, rather than allowing it to come naturally. Some of us might be wary of encountering the Holy Spirit – perhaps thinking there is too much hype and emotion. Yet, the most important emotion, with which any spiritual encounter should end, is joy (v.44). More on this tomorrow, but we can already see that this is a scene of joy.

[1] That is, the Greek version (the Septuagint, LXX). For ease of access, the verses quoted above are those from our bibles (based more closely on the Hebrew, Masoretic text (MT)) rather than the LXX – beware the differences!

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