Holy Spirit Encounter in the Womb Print

Two babies meet while still in the womb of their mothers and the Holy Spirit bears witness between them. God comes into the womb of a woman and so identifies with humankind in our weakest, and most vulnerable condition.

Luke is the only author of the four gospels to include the account of Elizabeth's pregnancy. A medical doctor, he provides background and detail. Matthew introduces John the Baptist with the words, "in those days John the Baptist came preaching." Mark simply starts with "John appeared, baptizing…and proclaiming." And, John states, "There was a man sent from God, whose name was John." But, Luke, sets out to present an "orderly account" and so he begins John's bio by introducing the readers to John's parents. Luke details Zechariah's encounter with an angel. The angel informs Zechariah that his wife Elizabeth, though "advanced in years" will bear him a son who will be "filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother's womb."

The angel's words are fulfilled and Elizabeth conceives and hides herself for the first five months of pregnancy. In Elizabeth's sixth month, Mary hears of Elizabeth's coming child from the angel, Gabriel. He tells Mary that she will conceive a son, Jesus, who will be called "the Son of the Most High." Mary's first response is to to go and visit Elizabeth. If she found that Elizabeth was indeed pregnant the angel's message would be validated. Little did Mary know how the Holy Spirit would move to confirm the angel's words that day.

The story of Elizabeth's pregnancy illuminates our understanding of Christ's coming as God in the flesh. Think of the encounter between John the Baptist and Jesus Christ while they are both yet in the wombs of their mothers. Jesus was the tiniest of embryos—only a few days or weeks old—yet at the sound of Mary's greeting, Elizabeth's baby boy, John the Baptist, leaps! This yet-to-beborn baby, who will "make ready for the Lord a people prepared" began to fulfill his calling in that moment by leaping at the prompting of the Holy Spirit in recognition of the presence of his Lord. His mother, Elizabeth, was also filled with the Holy Spirit. Before Mary is able to tell her she has conceived a child, Elizabeth loudly proclaims a blessing on the "fruit of your womb" and calls Mary the "mother of my Lord."

Luke's account makes unmistakably clear the fact that Jesus identified with humanity not only from the moment of his birth but from the moment of conception. The God of glory laid down his power and became the most vulnerable of all human beings, an embryo. Emanuel, God with us!

This article first published in Presbyterians Pro-Life Monthly, 2009