Luke 1:41 NIV
When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.
This is an extraordinary meeting. Menopausal Elizabeth and virginal Mary. Two pregnant women, one old and one young, but both pregnant for the first time under unlikely circumstances, both pregnant with babies that had been announced by an angel. The one child would grow to be a man “great in the eyes of the Lord” while the other would be “called the Son of the Most High.” Even at this fetal stage it seemed that the two recognized each other! John jumped when Mary called out, and Elizabeth felt his excitement. Then she was filled with the Holy Spirit and words came out of her mouth that she didn’t expect, nor perhaps even understand. This was, after all, her first meeting with Mary since they both had conceived, and there is no way that she could know what had happened to her. Did she even know that Mary was pregnant before she arrived on the doorstep? The words that came out of her mouth told her an unexpected story.
When Luke years later wrote this story he was already familiar with the strange ways of the Holy Spirit. But for Elizabeth these odd experiences were new and unfamiliar. Zechariah had no doubt told her about his encounter with the angel Gabriel, and the prophecy that their son John would be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he was born. Perhaps this was Elizabeth’s first experience of what it meant to be pregnant with a Spirit filled baby. She found herself speaking words she had not known or thought about before hand. She was suprised at what she said.
In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
The Holy Spirit does that sort of thing, speaks through people supernaturally and without warning. I remember the few times this has happened to me (it is by no means a frequent experience). It has happened in the context of speaking to others either in a group or individually. It has happened both in religious contexts (church or prayer meeting) and everyday situations (work). I have said something that I had not premeditated which surprised me by its wisdom and appropriateness. In each case I found myself thinking, “where did that come from? I have never thought of that before.” It is as though I have been instructed by someone else, but the instructions have come through my own mouth.
It is perhaps easy to be excited by more dramatic manifestations of the Holy Spirit: speaking in tongues, miraculous healing, supernatural words of knowledge. But this experience of speaking by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit has been every bit as exciting for me. Sceptics can of course find other ways of explaining the experience. But I have come to the understanding, like doctor Luke so many years ago, that this is one of the many expressions of the Holy Spirit active amongst us, a source of great encouragement to me and hopefully those around me.
Elizabeth had the same experience when her unborn son met the unborn Jesus for the first time. She and Mary were two normal people, just like me, encountering the power and presence of God in their lives. These were things they would never forget, stories that they would tell their families and friends, stories that would eventually be recorded in the writings we have come to know as the gospels. As we read them now, centuries later, we begin to understand what God looks like in people who allow themselves to enter into the life he intends for them, a life of friendship with God.