Hespeler 16 December 2018 © Scott McAndless
Luke 1:39-45, Luke 1:46-55
t usually happens somewhere between 13 and 16 weeks into a pregnancy. I’ve not experienced it myself, for pretty obvious reasons, but I understand that, at first, it is just like a little fluttering sensation in your belly. Sometimes you might not even be sure exactly what it is and wonder if it might just be gas or something. But, when you first do figure out what it really is, it changes everything. It is traditionally called the quickening.
      I think that for many mothers when they first feel that – first feel their baby moving within them, it is a great sign. You see, up until then, they have known that they were expecting. They have known that everything happening within them was leading to a baby being born, but that is just head knowledge. In many cases, it just doesn’t seem real. For many mothers, the moment when that happens is when they feel that movement inside them, movement inside their body that is not them. A new ultimately independent life is forming within. And all of a sudden it becomes very real: their life is about to change in ways that they can hardly even imagine. It is a clear sign of a new beginning.
      This morning we read the story of the time when Mary, the mother of Jesus, met Elizabeth the mother of John the Baptist. And, when that happened, something happened inside of Elizabeth. Her baby moved within her. And, on the one hand, it was an entirely ordinary thing. It was the kind of thing that happens to virtually every mother somewhere between 13 and 16 weeks. Except it isn’t really ordinary, is it? Every mother knows that it is always extraordinary when that first happens. Every mother knows that it is a sign and Elizabeth knew that it was a sign.

      But Elizabeth, the new prophet, declared the meaning of her sign and what she declared was a sign unlike any other: “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?”
      According to the Gospel of Luke, Elizabeth, with those words, became the first human being to actually announce that the Messiah was coming into the world. And I cannot help but dwell on this idea for a little while this week before Christmas. Elizabeth had something happen inside her body, something that was really only part of a natural human process, an extra­ordinary event that happens ordinarily to every human mother, and yet she recognized it as a sign that God was about to break through into human history in an unprecedented and unique way. What an incredible moment! And is it not a moment that we really need in the world right now?
      I think that many of us these days look around at the world and see so much that is going wrong. There is so much hatred. Despite everything that we have learned, there is so much racism. The social divide between rich and poor only seems to grow greater and to become more toxic. We are looking for a better world – for a sign that the world can even be a better place. That was the sign that Elizabeth felt within her at a moment that seemed just about as hopeless.
      But think about that for a moment. The sign that Elizabeth felt was inside her. It was, at once, both ordinary and extraordinary. It was an everyday thing, something that any doctor would tell you happens all the time. And yet Elizabeth correctly interpreted that sign as the beginning of a new world and of new hope. My question is this: was that just a one-time thing? I mean, is that the one time in the history of the world when the ordinary quickening event in the middle of somebody’s pregnancy turned out to be a sign that God was about to do something truly extraordinary in the world? Is Elizabeth an exception?
      Or is this something that God just does? Does God speak often to us through such signs and wonders that happen around us or even within us? Is the problem not that God doesn’t speak, is the problem that we fail to recognize the signs of what it is that God is saying and doing?
      About 2,000 years ago, the Gospel of Luke tells us, two women met, both of them expecting a child, in a village somewhere in Judea. And in the womb of one of those women, a baby moved. A child kicked within his mother’s belly, and the entire world changed. That is what our story says this morning.

      And I happen to believe that God still is involved in that kind of thing. God would still like to make the world move. God would still love to reveal the presence of his Emmanuel in this time and in this place and he would like to use you to do it. Pay attention to the signs. God is doing something inside you or maybe inside your neighbour. God is calling you to do some justice that needs to be done. God is calling you to speak a word of comfort or of encouragement to someone who is lost right now. Pay attention to the signs even if they are inside you. They are real and God is in them.