Author’s Note: Interested readers can find all previous volumes of this series here.
The verses we study today preface “the reason for the season” — the birth of Jesus Christ. However, months before Christmas Eve, there occurred two fascinating conversations with world-changing implications. The first is called “The Annunciation,” and the second conversation is known as “The Visitation.”
The Annunciation, better known in secular culture, is recorded in the New Testament Gospel of Luke. The Christmas story begins when the angel Gabriel visits Mary — an unmarried Jewish teenager at her home in Nazareth, Israel — saying, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you” (Luke 1:28).
After telling Mary, “Do not be afraid,” Gabriel shares the miraculous news that ultimately changes the course of humankind:
You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end” (Luke 1:31-33).
As one would expect, Mary does not understand, asking, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” (Luke 1:34).
Answer: “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:35).
As if that news was not enough to process, Gabriel shares another family surprise:
“And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God"(Luke 1:36-37).
Mary is shocked, thrilled, and terrified, but most important, accepting, and obedient to God’s will for her saying:
"Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word" (Luke 1:38).
Now we understand why Mary felt compelled and “hurried” to visit the pregnant Elizabeth for “about three months” thus “The Visitation.”
Note that Elizabeth’s conception of the baby who grew to be John the Baptist was also supernatural. You will find this to be a fascinating story. It is recorded at the beginning of Luke’s Gospel when Elizabeth’s husband Zechariah, a temple priest, was visited by “an angel of the Lord.” However, unlike Mary, who graciously accepted God’s will for her, Zechariah questioned the angel’s plan and suffered consequences for his disobedience (Luke 1:5-25).
Let us begin the Visitation” verses:
At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth.
When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.
In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear!
But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.
Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!” (Luke 39-45).
Such astounding scripture! Some of the Bible’s best (in my humble opinion.)
From the second verse, we can presume that Mary only “greeted” Elizabeth and had yet to inform her how she had conceived. But no need to explain because Mary’s initial greeting facilitated two Godly happenings.
First, Elizabeth felt how the “baby leaped in her womb” as he “recognized” Mary’s embryo as the Holy One. This incident foretells what happens when, as adults, John the Baptist recognizes Jesus as the Messiah and baptizes Him (Matthew 3:13-17).
Second, Elizabeth was “filled with the Holy Spirit,” so in human terms, she could confirm to Mary what the angel Gabriel had said about the true identity of her Son.
Then, “in a loud voice” (volume level is mentioned to convey Elizabeth’s excitement and confidence), as “she exclaimed: Blessed are you among women and blessed is the child you will bear! ”
Feeling the Holy Presence of Jesus and Mary, Elizabeth is humbled and asking, “But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?”
That question is The Visitation’s most significant since Elizabeth is the first person to call Jesus “my Lord.” She reiterates how her unborn baby also recognized who Mary was carrying and “leaped for joy.” Therefore we can say that John the Baptist was the second human to identify Jesus.
The Visitation’s inspiring conversation concludes with Elizabeth proclaiming about Mary:
Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!”
Mary desperately needs to hear these assuring and comforting words since she is not yet married, did not conceive naturally, and Gabriel said her son “will be called the Son of God.” Thus, the Mother of God must “believe.”
At the end of The Visitation, Mary is full of love and praise for the Lord, reciting a prayer called the “Magnificat” — discussed months ago in Vol. 19.
And, if you have four extra minutes, watch this uplifting movie clip of The Visitation scene from the film “Mary of Nazareth.”
The purpose of today’s study is to pique your interest in reading the first chapter of Luke to prepare yourself for the real reason we celebrate Christmas. Now, more than ever, recognize that HE is the season's one true gift. Amen!
Myra Kahn Adams is a media producer and conservative political and religious writer with numerous national credits. She is also Executive Director of www.SignFromGod.org, a ministry dedicated to educating people about the Shroud of Turin. Contact: MyraAdams01@gmail.com or Twitter @MyraKAdams.