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Author:Pastor Keith Davis
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Congregation:Bethel United Reformed Church
 Calgary, Alberta
 www.bethelurc.org
 
Title:When Babies Leap
Text:Luke 1:39-45 (Loosely connected t (View)
Occasion:Christmas Day
Topic:God's Providence
 
Preached:2021-11-28
Added:2021-12-07
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Welcome and Silent Prayer
* Call to Worship
* Declaration of our Dependence upon God
* God’s Greeting

Service of Praise and Confession

* Song of Praise: “God, All Nature Sings Thy Glory” # 253
Reading of the Law
Assurance of Pardon
Song of Response: “Lord, from the Depths to You I Cry!” # 130A
Congregational Prayer
* Song of Preparation: “All Creatures of Our God and King” # 248: 1,4,5

Service of God’s Holy Word

Scripture Reading: Luke 1: 39-45
Heidelberg Catechism: Lord’s Day 9
Sermon: “When Babies Leap”
Prayer of Application
* Song of Response: “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” # 293
Offering: Mid-America Reformed Seminary
* Benediction
* Doxology: Sing Hallelujah! Praise the LORD!” # 150C
“Sing hallelujah! Praise the LORD! Praise God within his sacred courts! Hallelujah!
Hallelujah! Praise, praise him in his heav’nly height! Praise, praise him for his deeds
of might! O praise him! O praise him! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
* Reverent Reflection
* Postlude

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Pastor Keith Davis, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


When Babies Leap

Luke 1: 39-45

Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ, those of you who may be of English or British descent may have heard about “Father Christmas”. The term Father Christmas goes back many centuries – some date it as far back to the 1400’s, if not earlier. It was a term used to personify Christmas – Father Christmas or “Sir Christmas” was the one who announced the birth of Christ and encouraged everyone to celebrate.

 

Although the legend of Father Christmas was actually banned for many years by the Puritans, in later years, it enjoyed a resurgence. Father Christmas came to be known as the one who brought gifts to children. Of course, it is the same idea behind St. Nicolas in Holland and Santa Claus here in Canada and in the USA.   

 

The reason I mention this is because what we read a moment ago from Lord’s Day 9 reveals that there is indeed a Father Christmas – but He is not the stuff of English legends and folklore. He is none other than the eternal father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

It was Jesus Himself who stated this so beautifully in John 3:16: God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, so that whosoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. The Son was the gift which the eternal Father sent to the world, to redeem men from their sin, and to redeem his creation which lay beneath the curse of sin.   

 

But what we need to understand as Christians, is that the Father doesn’t only give us the gift of His Son, Jesus Christ. The father also gives us Himself! Maybe I can put it this way: God cannot just give us “part” of Himself. He is One God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We can’t have the Son as our Savior without also having God as our Father and the Holy Spirit as our Sanctifier.  

 

That too is part of the gift of Christmas. We just confessed that together: That the eternal Father of our Lord Jesus Christ…is what? He is MY GOD and MY FATHER for the sake of Christ His Son! Having eternal God as our heavenly Father is just as much a reason to rejoice at Christmas!

And we see that God our Father has been at work here in Luke 1. How else does an old woman who was barren conceive a child? How else does a virgin conceive? How else does an infant in the womb leap for joy? It’s not possible. It’s not natural. As we’ve been taught: You have to follow the science. You have to trust the science.  

 

But here we’re taught to follow the Father; to trust the Father; to believe in what the Father says and does – even as Gabriel said (in vs. 37) nothing is impossible with God! God is the Almighty God, the creator and sustainer of heaven and earth. We confess that God is the One who set the sun and moon and stars in place and established the laws of nature.

 

We all believe and confess that God is the One who created man from the dust of the ground and breathed the breath of life into his nostrils. So, it is not impossible for this same God to suspend the very laws of nature that He ordained. It is not impossible for this same God to circumnavigate the laws of basic biology (the birds and the bees), and to arrange for the supernatural conception of His own divine Son within the womb of the virgin Mary.  

 

Nothing is impossible for God because He is the almighty Father, Creator. As Lord’s Day 9 puts it so beautifully: He is able to do this because he is almighty God; he desires to do this because he is a faithful Father. This is where we pick it up today. Here in our text, Mary Visits Elizabeth (and for the very first time, John the Baptists Meets Jesus). We’ll consider:  

1)  John Leaps for Joy 

2)  Elizabeth Greatly Rejoices

 

1) John Leaps for Joy 

In verse 39 we’re told that after Mary’s encounter with the angel Gabriel, she hurried off to the hill country of Judah. She’s off to visit her cousin Elizabeth, whom (as she had been told by the angel) was already in her 6th month of pregnancy.

 

If you look back at the opening verses of this chapter – verses 5-7, Luke introduces us to Elizabeth and to her husband Zechariah. Luke mentions that this was in the time of Herod, which is a way of saying: these were dark days; these were difficult days; day of oppression for the people of God.

 

But despite those dark days, God was still in control. God had reserved for himself a people who were still faithful and obedient and living in expectation of the fulfillment of the promises. Both Elizabeth and her husband Zechariah belonged to the line of Aaron.

 

In that way, though they were childless, they were still doubly blessed. And they were righteous and upright in the eyes of the Lord. Not that they never sinned – but it meant that they loved God, and lived by faith, and they trusted in God. Just as he had done with all Old Testament saints, God counted their faith in Him as righteousness.

 

That’s an important point to make here as well – that in this chapter we are standing on the very threshold of where the Old Testament meets the New Testament, of Old Covenant administration of shadows and promise and type (looking forward to Christ’s coming), is about to give way to the New Covenant Administration of reality and fulfillment in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ.   

 

So Mary, who is now pregnant herself, is off to visit Elizabeth. Verse 24 tells us that after she became pregnant, Elizabeth remained in seclusion for five months. Perhaps this had something to do with her health at her advanced age. We do not know for sure, but then we’re told later, in vs. 56 that Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months.

 

So as we piece this together, we see that Mary’s presence would have been a huge help to Elizabeth. And it also shows us that Mary, the mother of our Lord, had a servant’s heart.

 

Now our passage records what happened the moment Mary enters the home of Elizabeth. Verse 41: “the moment Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby John, leaped in her womb.” The baby didn’t just move or kick. Elizabeth would have known the difference. This was something different; this was something she had never felt before – and yet, she knew exactly what it meant.

 

She told Mary: as soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy! What we are witnessing here is yet another (pre-Christmas) miracle of God; this is the supernatural work of God – and once more it happens within the womb.

 

But looking deeper here, what was it that made Elizabeth’s baby leap within her womb? Yes, he heard Mary’s voice – but is there something more? Please look back at Luke 1: 15 – the very last part of that verse. There we’re told that the son who would be born to Zechariah and Elizabeth would be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth”.

 

Now, if you look down at the footnote on verse 15, you’ll see an alternative translation (which is found in the English Standard Version). It reads he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb. I think that is the key to helping us understand what happened. Remember, this baby is none other than John the Baptist.  

 

Already here we see the special anointing of the Holy Spirit which God gave John. And let’s remember the calling and purpose which God gave to John (in Luke 1:15 ff, but also in vv. 68-79). He was set apart by God from birth. He would be the forerunner of Jesus Christ; a prophet of the Most High. He would make ready a people prepared for the Lord (vs. 17).

 

Already in the womb John shows his willingness, his eagerness to take on the task and to proclaim the coming of the Christ. He jumps for joy in the presence of his Master. One commentator wrote: “Already now, in utero, John is confessing and proclaiming the coming of Christ!

 

Pastor Philip Ryken wrote: here we have the connecting of the two covenants, old and new. Both sons were joined under the same roof, and just like the electrical contact between two power stations, the results were explosive. There was a spontaneous outburst of exultant joy as old covenant greeted the new!

 

As an aside, this account also highlights what we have known to be true since the beginning – that there is life in the womb! That an unborn child is indeed a person; awake, aware and even listening. And it strengthens our conviction that our children are known by God and even filled with His Holy Spirit from the time of conception. 

 

Finally, in this amazing encounter, Luke is showing us how Jesus Christ our Savior and Lord ought to be received -- not just by John the Baptist – but by everyone! The appearance of Jesus, His drawing near to us, the coming of Immanuel should cause our hearts and souls to leap for joy.

 

That message of joy, of wonder, of great expectation is contained in almost every Christmas Carol and anthem we sing. In the song O Holy Night, we sing of the thrill of hope the weary world rejoices, for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn. Or as we sing Joy to the world the Lord is come, let earth receive her King!

 

Christmas is coming – how will you receive the newborn King? How will you greet God’s Son, Jesus Christ? And how do you recognize or acknowledge God as your Father? I know that things are not especially bright and cheery in our world today. But remember, back when John and Jesus were born, Caesar Augustus ruled the world and that wicked and vile and murderous tetrarch king Herod reigned over the region of Judea.

 

So yes, things can seem dark and hopeless and oppressive at times. And perhaps even in your own personal life, or maybe in your immediate family, or your extended family, there’s great sorrow and pain and loss; or there’s sickness and suffering of some sort.

 

Just this past week as my American family and friends were celebrating Thanksgiving, I saw a post on Facebook from a young mother of three children. She’s probably in her mid-thirties. She lost her husband 5 months ago from COVID. On Thanksgiving morning she posted how much she missed her husband.

 

It’s tempting to want to remind her that there was still so much to be thankful for. But I’m sure she knows that. She is a believer. She was merely sharing what she felt in her heart at that moment. We grow so accustomed to celebrating the Holidays as a family – and those occasions are especially difficult for those who’ve lost loved ones -- a spouse, a child, even parents.  

 

At times, you just don’t feel very much like celebrating. And God knows that. And God understands that. And that’s why we can be so thankful that the joy and wonder and comfort and assurance we have at Christmas – of the coming of Jesus Christ as our Savior -- is not a superficial, lighthearted joy that comes and goes; or that rises and falls with our ever changing circumstances.

 

No. It is a deep-rooted confidence and joy. It is a joy and gladness that flows from of our faith in Jesus Christ the Son of God. That He is this dark world’s light. That He is my Savior and Redeemer. That He was sent by the Father into this world to redeem us from our sins, to deliver us from this world of death and darkness and despair. That He is coming again to make all things new! To turn our mourning into dancing!

 

1 Peter 5:10 says: And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.

 

2)  Elizabeth Greatly Rejoices

So that was first: John Leaps for Joy. Next: Elizabeth Greatly Rejoices. The last half of verse 41 and into 42 it says, And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. And in a loud voice she exclaimed: Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear!

 

Last week we noted the presence and the power of the Holy Spirit and His role in the Christmas Story. The Holy Spirit overshadowed Mary and brought about the miraculous conception of the Christ child. The Holy Spirit was already present with baby John in the womb. And now the Holy Spirit fills Elizabeth.

 

As we said last week – our Triune God is at work. We see almighty God stooping down; moving toward us; we see that the heart of our God is filled with love and compassion and mercy and grace for lost sinners – and He will stop at nothing to glorify His Name by saving the objects of His mercy!! That ought to humble us. It ought to fill our hearts with love for God; with gratitude, and fear and reverence for God knowing that He would do this for such a worm as I!  

 

Now, there’s something else about Elizabeth’s reaction to Mary that warrants our attention. Notice her humility and selflessness. For what is her focus when Mary comes to visit? Perhaps we should ask, what could have been her primary focus? She could have made this all about herself, right?

 

And for good reason. Elizabeth herself had quite a tale to tell. She was old and she was barren. God had done a great miracle in her as well. But the moment that her cousin Mary entered her home she praises God for Mary and for the child SHE carries! We see that Elizabeth’s heart is set firmly upon her Lord, her Savior Jesus Christ!

 

Look what Elizabeth said to Mary: But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? Later on in verse 45, Elizabeth also mentions Mary’s faith: Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished! 

 

Elizabeth, like the baby she carries in her womb, knows and understands the importance of the Christ child. By the Spirit’s power and enlightenment she already knows that all the honor and praise and glory belongs to Christ and to Christ alone! That’s the very same thing that her son John would one day testify about Jesus -- as soon as Jesus was baptized and began his earthly ministry. John declared: He must become greater; I must become less (John 3:30).

 

I think this scene is amazing for so many reasons, especially for the fact that Elizabeth and Mary already know such much. These two women, these two expectant mothers, they were both aware that something amazing, something miraculous was happening! That God was on the move. That God was bringing the fulfillment of the long-awaited promise -- the birth of the Messiah!!

 

It could only be that God had revealed to them exactly what He was doing. We see that also by the name Elizabeth calls Jesus. He is not yet born, his work and ministry have not yet begun. yet she calls him Lord! By faith, God gave her faith to see that Mary’s son was the Christ, the Messiah and King. She already sees Christ sitting on his throne!

 

So how amazing, how marvelous, how wonderful this meeting is. And beloved, this same vision of faith, this same insight and understanding, this same humble perspective must be ours as well as we ponder the gift of our Savior at Christmas.

 

May God give us faith to see, faith to know and embrace Christ for who he is; for why He came.

May God give us faith to see and know Christ – not just as a little baby born in a manger -- but as Christ our Lord and our King!

 

And remember what we said at the outset of the sermon: that our God does not give us only part of Himself. When God gave us His Son to be our Savior, God gave us Himself to be our heavenly Father.

 

Tonight we’ll explore that more deeply in connection with Lord’s Day 10, but already here we can see the unmistakable presence and power of God the Father in the life of Mary and Elizabeth. We see God at work -- God the Creator, God the Provider, God the Protector.

 

We see His love, His care, His provision not only for these two incredible women in their unique circumstances, but we see God’s love and care and provision for all of us – as God was preparing the way for the salvation that was to come through His Son Jesus Christ.

 

And of course, the comforting truth of Lord’s Day 9 is that God’s love and care and provision of the Father doesn’t just end with His sending of the Son. No. God’s love for us, his children, compels him to continue to care for us, to provide for his children in each and every generation.

 

May we all make Answer 26 our daily testimony: I trust God so much that I do not doubt he will provide whatever I need for body and soul, and will turn to my good whatever adversity he sends upon me in this vale of tears. He is able to do this because he is almighty God; he desires to do this because he is a (He is OUR) faithful Father.

 

Amen.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Pastor Keith Davis, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2021, Pastor Keith Davis

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