A meditation on Luke 1:39-45:
In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah, and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she 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, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”
The immature John, Prophet preparing the way for the Messiah, leaps in the womb of Elizabeth when the young Jesus is carried through the door. John doesn’t have a loud voice yet (indeed, his lungs are filled with fluid) but he shouts all the same. His mother is listening and even understands his wordless message. She blesses Mary and the fruit of her womb, though she cannot possibly understand what it all means.
It has always been God’s desire for Man (and Woman) to mature. He seems to take delight in slowly nurturing us to greater wisdom and maturity. In the garden, we were like young children – not realizing our nakedness and Adam unable to protect Eve from the serpent. But even though they fall and our cursed, even in the same day, our creator prophecies that they will one day crush the head of the serpent. They will not remain children forever.
But growing up takes a long time, and many lives of men. As our bodies grow tired and then return to dust, our children surpass us, but also fall into the same traps as we watch in anguish. It’s two steps forward, one step back and because our trust is partial, we don’t quite know where we are walking to.
In these times throughout history, the Holy Spirit comes unto certain individuals. And how does his visit manifest in them? Often through a accelerated or temporary maturity. It’s like as if for a moment they are a millennia older and wiser, more like what Adam would have been had he aged enough to have his wits about him.
David will need to fight powerful foes – a frightening task for any man. Yet as just a boy we find him up in the face of a bear, something most modern men would be terrified of. Even his singing is skilled far beyond his years. He is filled with the Holy Spirit.
Solomon was a young man when he asked the Lord for wisdom rather than riches. Why did he not ask for riches? The Holy Spirit was upon him already. What did he get – a divine IQ boost? An encyclopediac brain dump from heaven? No, but rather more of what he already had been given – the Holy Spirit. It’s like he suddenly became 200 years old (and still smart as a tack) rather than 20.
John the Baptizer exhibits this same accelerated maturity. Long before he enters the desert with a hairy face and coat to shout “Behold the Lamb of God!” loudly, we find him squirming mightily near the end of the second trimester. In what other prophet was the Spirit so present in? According to Christ, no one.
Finally, at the baptism of Jesus, the Spirit descends on Jesus “without measure” (John 3:34). In Christ, the incarnation, the presence of the third member of the God Head is turned up to eleven and Jesus is like a second Adam. He IS the second Adam, a man perfect and untainted by sin, but also analogous to the first Adam – as he should have been had he matured. Now as first born of the resurrected humans, he returns to his father, leaving the Holy Spirit behind in greater measure than ever before. Our own growth and maturity, though punctuated by death and delays, nevertheless charges forward at a quicker pace than ever before. He will not see his children remain toddlers forever.
The serpent has been used to striking little children and coiling easily around their bodies. In Christ, the tiny dragon met a full-grown man with a heavy shovel and a strong arm. He despairs at the thought of so many more of us, taller than ever, with keen eyes and heavy boots. It is the Lord’s slow and patient gift to us and our race: Life. Growth. Even life unto the reversal of all death.