Thursday, December 17, 2015

Shhh! I'm Pregnant

My wife and I have four children, and our youngest is five months old. With each pregnancy, like most expectant fathers, I have wanted to share that news as quickly as possible. When the test shows two pink lines instead of one, I want the world to know. This is life-changing. This is wonderful. This is a miracle-in-progress. I want to tell my family and friends. I want to begin celebrating this news as soon as possible. Their mother, however, knows better than that.

Things can go wrong. Things often go wrong, and, when they do, it's usually in the early days of pregnancy. Let's wait a little while, she says. I don't want people to know yet. It's too hard to share good news and then withdraw it a little later. There's a little superstition in there, of course. We all know it. We all recognize that when we are dealing with something largely beyond our control we find lots of pretend ways to influence the outcome--or, at least, prevent a negative influence from happening. In a few weeks, maybe a month or two, then we'll be ready to share.

In Luke 1:39-45, Mary comes to greet her elder cousin Elizabeth, who lived in the hill country. She carried in her womb a tiny, developing life, which had come upon her in a most mysterious and miraculous fashion. But Mary was young and unmarried, and her betrothed was not the father. These were early days. She may have been sick, but, other than that, Mary showed no evidence of her pregnancy. And she was thankful for that. Already, things were hard enough with Joseph, who needed to be assured by an angelic visit in a dream that he did not need to divorce his fiancée. His family, if they had heard, would be irate. So Mary kept her growing secret to herself. They wouldn't understand. No one would--no one except Elizabeth.

Upon entering the house, Mary is greeted by her cousin, who exclaims, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord." We know the whole story. We've seen the angel come to visit Mary. We know that, in a few months, the birth will take place in Bethlehem. We know that in thirty years John the Baptist and Jesus will be united in ministry. But Elizabeth didn't know. She only knew her side of the story. And she knew what the baby inside her had done.

Zechariah, Elizabeth's husband, had been visited by an angel, who announced that he and his wife would have a son. That child was to "go before the Lord to prepare his ways." He was to be the forerunner of God's anointed one--the savior of the world. Elizabeth had her own challenges. Her husband had been struck mute by the angel because of his disbelief, so he had to explain this story with gestures and by writing it down. The house was quiet in those days, and Elizabeth had plenty of time to ponder the promises God was making--to wonder how they would be fulfilled.

And then, without any further explanation, Mary walks in, and Elizabeth's unborn child jumps for joy inside her belly, and Elizabeth knows. Like any mother who carries a child within her, she knows what no one else can know--that the cousin who has arrived is also carrying a child, the one on whom the world has been waiting. Elizabeth is right, and she hasn't even heard a word from Mary.

God is working in clear and decisive ways. God isn't just pulling a few odds and ends together so that we might make a loose connection. God isn't make broad generalizations or oblique references. No, God is fitting everything together in ways that cannot be missed or avoided or ignored. God's plan of salvation is breaking through into this world in paradigm-shattering ways. It isn't an accident. God doesn't leave it to chance. The story is too beautiful for that.

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