No, I’m not talking about the little drummer boy. We read in Luke 2:41 that “when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb.” Then in Luke 2:44, Elizabeth says, “For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.”
That baby in Elizabeth’s womb was John the Baptist. He was a baby in a womb, unable to see the world, but able to hear and sense the world around him. And when he heard Mary's voice, he sensed the presence of Jesus in Mary’s womb.
In the past, as I’ve read that, I’ve simply chalked it up to John being a prophet, and so even as a baby, he recognized the things of God. Cool stuff. But is it possible that there’s more to it than that?
I'd like to suggest that there is. We may think it remarkable that an unborn baby actually leaped for joy because he sensed the presence of the Son of God. And it is. But as readers of this story today, it’s worth recognizing that we aren't restricted by the confines of a womb, and so we don't need a prophetic gift to know that Jesus is not only near us – as he was to John – but is actually with us, right now, by the Holy Spirit.
John's joy-filled response as a baby reminds us of how incredibly exciting it is that God is literally here among us – God with us. We can now live in a personal and spiritual union with Jesus that makes him more accessible to us than he was to John the Baby Baptist. And yet, we don't tend to overflow with the same exuberant joy that John felt! We certainly don’t go around leaping for joy at Christmastime. That’d be a sight! Perhaps it's because the message of Christmas has become so familiar to us that it ceases to excite us that much. Or perhaps we've become too grown up (so to speak) in our theological understanding of the Christmas story to leap for joy. If so, I'm sure that God wants the story to become fresh in our hearts again.
But let’s be real. I don’t plan to start leaping around with joy this Christmas. I just want to be amazed again at the amazingness of it all! I want to feel excited about Jesus coming to Earth to be my Saviour and my Friend and my God, who offers me a new life with him. But I recognize that sometimes we can struggle to feel joy at Christmas because we’re going through a really tough time. How can we leap for joy when life’s circumstances are weighing us down? That’s understandable. But even in such times, I hope the story of an unborn baby leaping for joy at God’s nearness will remind us that Jesus is closer to us now than he was to John the Baptist then. And Jesus wants to bring you joy by drawing ever closer to you in the midst of the struggles of life.
The sound of his greeting is in our ears as we read the Christmas story. The God of all comfort, who came near to save us, is truly still here with us now.
© 2023 Ken Peters