Dropkicked by Jesus
39In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, 40where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 41When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit 42and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. 43And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me?44For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. 45And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.” 46And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, 47and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,48for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; 49for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. 50His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. 51He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. 5t2He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; 53he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. 54He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy,55according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.” 56And Mary remained with her about three months and then returned to her home.
“Leaped in her womb.”
Gosh I love that phrase, almost as much as I love Luke’s line about Mary “pondering all these things in her heart.”
”…the child leaped in her womb,” he penned.
Luke knew how to weave words together, no doubt about it.
Luke had a way with words, undoubtedly, but you know what he never had?
A raucous baby in his belly.
”Leaped in her womb,” he wrote.
But any woman who has been pregnant knows that that, right there, that is called “poetic license.”
Now we’re talking.
John kicked her, is what happened.
I remember once in class where daughter Else was seriously doing the dance moves so obviously that the professor and students stopped to watch.
And it is true that no matter how hard she, and earlier Karl, flipped and stretched and punted and slugged me from inside out, I treasured each wince, all the more because before Karl came along, I had miscarried, and from then on carried not just an emptiness but a fear that so many women have carried, and always carry: Would I ever feel a baby kick?
So the fiercest karate contest would have been welcome in my belly.
Given that, when I did become pregnant again, while poetically these babies of mine were leaping, let’s be real for a moment: that’s not what was happening.
See, leaping is graceful. Gentle. Soft. Elegant.
Drop kicking is not.
Now, here’s an interesting thing: as Pastor Brian Stoffregen points out in this commentary, the word used in verse 41 (skirteo) that we translate as ‘leap’ is used by Luke two times; here, and when Jesus is telling us not just to persevere, but to “leap for joy,” when persecuted, “for surely your reward is great in heaven” (6:23ab).
Stoffregen also notes that the translators of the Septuagint, which is an ancient translation of the Old Testament from Hebrew into Greek, opted for this same word when telling of Jacob and Esau “struggling together in the womb.” (Genesis 25:22)
With all of that as a cue-up, he then asks this: “Is there really any difference between a ‘kick’ in the womb or twins ‘struggling’ in the womb and a ‘leap for joy’ in the womb? It all depends on how one interprets the actions. Certainly in this text Elizabeth is able to correctly interpret the movement within her because she has been filled with the Holy Spirit.”
It’s a great question.
But put another way, and in light not just of this verse but Mary’s song which comes right after it, does a person leap or struggle when the Holy Spirit comes around?
I believe it depends, because, depending on who She’s paying a visit, the Holy Spirit can either cause someone to leap for joy, or She can kick you in the, well…you know.
So, Elizabeth and John leapt for joy because Mary’s womb held the Messiah.
According to Mary’s song, so did the lowly, those who fear God, the humble, the hungry, and the poor.
To these poor and humble people, Jesus’ advent was news worthy of a leap: in fact, Mary even points out that her spirit “rejoices.”
Buuuuuuuttttttttt I’m thinking that others addressed in her words, like those who do not fear God, who are proud, who are powerful, whose stomachs are filled, and who are rich, do not find that ‘rejoice’ is the first word that comes to mind when they hear God’s agenda for the world and for God’s followers.
To that, they might sing, and in minor key, ”My spirit is defensive/angry/rationalizes/dismisses.”
These folks, when the Triune God comes around?
They feel kicked right where it counts.
Perhaps, in fact, that’s exactly what is happening.
Perhaps that’s precisely what the Holy Spirit is doing to certain folk, for Jesus’ advent and his agenda can, in fact, kick a person right in the…you know.
The more I ponder this text, the more I think that the Holy Spirit can do what women can do: Multi-task.
To those who receive relief from injustice and grief and exhaustion and poverty, She causes a leap.
To those who receive judgment for their hoarded riches and privilege and unengagement, She causes a struggle.
The temptation is everywhere, especially this time of year, to spiritualize the Christmas story, to make it meek and mild.
But even before Jesus is born (just take a look at Herod), let alone after, Jesus brings both joy and anger, relief and indictment, leaping and struggling.
And yet regardless, whether the people perceive it (as do those who are lowly, who fear God, who are humble, who are hungry, who are poor) or not (as do those who do not fear God, who are proud, who are powerful, who are filled, who are rich), he brings Good News worthy of a decent leap.
Karl and Else both kicked and leapt within me.
Good News, you see, can cut both ways, but it still remains, actually Good News: God is true to God’s promises, and Jesus is come.
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