The Pilgrim God: Reflections on the Story of Jesus


4. The Visitation: (Luke 1:39-45)

Jesus came to Mary at the first moment of his existence as a human being. Some months later he came to Elizabeth and her baby, John. He came in the womb of Mary. The first Christmas was fast approaching and then as now, everyone was getting more and more excited, especially the kids: John and Jesus.

Mary sped up the coming of Jesus to Elizabeth because she knew that her cousin had received an early gift and needed help. Barren for so many years, Zachary and Elizabeth had been given a child. After so many years of feeling God moving in her heart, the elderly Elizabeth now felt a son moving in her womb. It was truly her golden year.

Elizabeth had of course gotten word that her cousin was coming to see her but the fact that this was to become an early Christmas was a great surprise for her. Before Mary arrived at her cousin's house, only she and Joseph and Jesus knew who the infant Jesus was. To the rest of the world, the bloom of happiness on her face was but the normal glow of a young mother carrying her first child.

Elizabeth did not know Jesus when Mary was distant but as soon as he was brought to her she knew him. John seemed to know too. Elizabeth sang to Mary: "Blessed is the fruit of your womb!" and John danced to the melody of that first Christmas song.

That a baby should jump for joy on his first Christmas day is not too surprising. Indeed, even under ordinary circumstances, it is not unknown for a child to dance in the womb to the music of that secret song that only a mother and child can hear. And after birth the child's joy seems to continue. Once born, a child meets life with a smile because everything seems so wonderful. It is surrounded by friends: its thumb, the glittering sun warming its crib, the softness of the mother that feeds it, the silly father who plays with it, and any wooly dog that happens to pass by.

Little kids seem to have a special sense of good things about to happen. Little kids expect the best out of life. They assume that everything new will be just fine and good. They see everything, listen to everything, and are pleased with every innovation in life. No wonder, then, that John danced when for the first time he came into the presence of Jesus Christ.

The wonder is that Elizabeth herself reacted so strongly to the new event. She was, after all, no child. She had lived many years but apparently had not been hardened by the experience. Many of us seem to become "shelled" by life. Past burns create scars; constant aggravations build callouses; we build up a hardness to life. Once hurt, we vow never to trust again. Burned by our present, we fear the future and flee into the past. We say:

What is new is dangerous; happiness is in my accustomed life. I may be in a rut but it is a safe rut. Let me rest here until it widens and deepens into my grave.

Elizabeth was not like that. Her closeness to God had preserved the simplicity and trust of her childhood. She did not suffer "Christmas Depression", that depression that comes from expecting too much and getting too little. Elizabeth had not given a shopping list to God designating all the good things that she wanted when he came. She simply waited for the coming of this new friend and trusted that whatever happened as a result would be good. Like a child facing its first Christmas, it was impossible for her to be disappointed because of unfulfilled expectations. For the holy Elizabeth, as for the baby John, anything new from God was a wonderful thing precisely because it was unexpected.

And thus it was that when Mary brought Jesus to Elizabeth and John, Elizabeth sang and John danced. And in Mary's womb Jesus smiled and tapped out the beat with his tiny foot. And why not? It was for them all their very first Christmas.

The two women stayed together for about three months, helping each other as the separate lives of their boys grew within them. Finally, at about the time when Elizabeth was due to give birth, Mary returned home. Her own time for delivery was nearing and Joseph had received word of a new census which would force them to travel to Bethlehem, the ancestral home of their clan. Mary was already experiencing the call of her unborn son to humanity:

You are a Pilgrim People!
Prepare to move on!

It was time to return to Nazareth to prepare for the trip with her beloved husband Joseph, good old hard-working, dependable, trusting Joseph.

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